After days of preparation and planning, Thanksgiving was finally here. As in the past few years, we held our Dubai Thanksgiving dinner on Friday since Thursday is a work day and Friday is not (at least not for us).
This was our 4th year hosting Thanksgiving at our place and in addition to the feasting and drinking activities, there was also a charity element to it. We are blessed with so much yet there are so many in this world that have so little.
My sister Diana recently ran her first two marathons – one in Beijing on October 16th and one in Hangzhou on November 6th – to fundraise for the China Tomorrow Education Foundation (CTEF). We asked all our guests this year to consider donating 100 dhs per person to Diana’s fundraising efforts.
Her goal was to raise RMB 30,000 (~USD $ 4,640) and I am so proud that she not only completed her marathons in under five hours but also met her fundraising goal!
* * * * *
For our Thanksgiving dinner, Scotch is in charge of the ambiance. He makes a huge effort in ensuring that the lighting, music, and floral are the best that they can be given what we have to work with in Dubai.
This year, he bought some fresh flowers for the house from the florist at Times Square Center and a lovely smelling candle from L’Occitane. The burning scent of the Winter Forest candle was just amazing – like walking into a nippy pine forest and it totally set the mood for the evening. And the calla lilies, thistles, and lime roses were absolutely gorgeous!
With some creative seating arrangements with balcony chairs and IKEA stools, my apartment can fit 20 people. Since 30 people RSVP’d, we wanted to make sure that everyone would at least have a place to put their plates even if we couldn’t provide them with chairs.
We made arrangements to have a few standing cocktail rounds in the apartment and they worked out great.
In the end, we had a few cancellations (as expected) and ended up with 21.5 people at the party. The 0.5 being Wee Scotch who made an appearance during cocktail hour to say “hi” and to charm all my guests with his sweet face and infectious giggles. There was certainly tears and screaming before he was carried off to bed.
He had a hard time settling at first as he was upset at having turned Roman again – now this hadn’t happened in a long time but this is basically what turning Roman looks like:
Once Scotch went in to put his shirt properly back on, he said, “Night, night, Dada” and went straight to sleep.
At least until 3:00am when he came running out into the living room, looked around, all bleary eyed and asked, “Where’d everybody go?” In baby talk, it sounded more like, “Whed eb-body gohoo?”
This year, the largest turkey I could find was 9.9 kg (22 lb) and I brined it for 36 hours and roasted it for 2.5 to 3 hours. It came out beautifully colored and tasted succulent – full of moisture and flavor. For a bird this size, brining is a must.
I used 2 gallons of brine inside a clear IKEA plastic box (39 x 28 x 28 cm or 15.4 x 11 x 11 in) lined with a Glad ForceFlex garbage bag (size is 13 g/49.2 L bought at Carrefour) for easy cleanup. In the photo above, I’ve further placed the plastic box inside a vinyl bag with handles to make it easier to lug into the fridge.
The turkey was a perfect size for the number of guests and provided leftovers for us for only 1.5 days.
Most of the hors d’oeuvres I made the day before. A few hours before the guests arrived, I set them out around the dining and cocktail tables.
The desserts were a group effort from our friends with some homemade goodies that were highly raved about. Scotch loved the caramelly “Turtle Brownies” and almost hid a box of them until I told him that there was another box floating around.
I loved the Royal au Chocolat which I kept telling people was a “Royal Ocean” cake due to some misunderstanding with a French accent. In my defense, there was a lot of loud chatter and music and the dessert did resemble an ocean of chocolate.
And thanks to Sparkly Date Palm for the beautiful Tarte Tatin and Alex for the best cheese selection ever (it was practically all gone before we even got to dessert!).
For me, the best part about Thanksgiving food is the side dishes!
Again, everything was made the day before Thanksgiving dinner (and heated up in the oven as soon as the turkey was done roasting) except for the Green Bean Casserole since it was a last minute addition. For that dish, I used frozen instead of canned beans and made my own cream of mushroom with 3 packets of fresh mushrooms (750 grams / 1.5 lbs) and 1 cup of chicken stock plus 1 cup of heavy cream.
As is tradition every year, our chef friend CB makes the gravy (the best we’ve every tasted), carves and beautifully plates the turkey.
I mentioned this in a previous post, but I have to say it again: No Thanksgiving at our place is complete without the jello shots. This year, my friend RM concocted some delicious apple pie and cosmopolitan ones.
It was a wonderful evening to spend with our friends and all my pre-planning and pre-cooking allowed me to enjoy the evening mingling and socializing instead of stressing in the kitchen. I already have some new ideas and recipes for next year!
* * * * *
The day after Thanksgiving is usually the big cleanup day. At one point, I left the living room for a second to grab something and when I returned, this is how I found Wee Scotch “helping”.
He had slung a Heineken cooler over one shoulder (how cool does he look?) and tried to run away with the beer cooler which I had told him a million times that it’s “not for babies”.
* * * * *
Thanksgiving Day 2011 Menu (final):
French Onion Dip with Crudite
Crostini with Wasabi Mayo Shrimp
Green Pea Veloute in mini shot glasses
Steak Bites with Bloody Mary Sauce
Salsa with Chips
Assorted Cheeses by Alex
THE MAIN EVENT
Pork Sausage and Cranberry Apple Stuffing
Truffle Mashed Potato
Green Bean Casserole with French’s Fried Onion
Salad of Roasted Butternut Squash with Arugula, Baby Spinach and a Garlic-Ginger Citrus Vinaigrette
Turkey Gravy and Cranberry Sauce
Ginger and Scotch Pumpkin Praline Squares
Royal au Chocolat by Chef Bruno
“Turtle Brownies” by Mike
Tarte Tatin by SDP