Thanksgiving 2011 – Feasting, Drinking, and Fundraising

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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.

CTEF is a Seattle-based non-profit 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is to improve education in rural China and prepare children to become responsible global citizens by constructing/ renovating schools, establishing libraries, training teachers, providing teaching equipment, funding scholarships and promoting public awareness. Since it’s inception in 1999, CTEF has raised over USD $1.4 Million and helped fund 152 school projects in 13 rural provinces, impacting the lives of over 51,000 underprivileged children.

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.

Living Room

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:

Wee Scotch turned Roman

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.

Brining the Turkey

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.

Thanksgiving Turkey 2011
A toast to the Thanksgiving Turkey 2011

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!).

Thanksgiving in Dubai 2011

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.

Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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.

Cosmo and Apple Pie Jello Shots
Cosmo and Apple Pie Jello Shots

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”.

Cleaning up

* * * * *

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


Roast Turkey


Pork Sausage and Cranberry Apple Stuffing

Truffle Mashed Potato

Creamed Corn

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

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  1. Sandy, it all looks really good. The turkey picture is perfect, the browning and skin, it all looks mouthwatering 🙂 YUM… I have to say that Wee Scotch is just the most adorable lil one ever! he is so cute 🙂

    1. The brining really helps with not just the flavor but with the coloring as well. No basting, no flipping necessary. Alton Brown's recipe is a keeper.

  2. We don't celebrate Thanksgivings too but I'm curious to know how others celebrate it. Based on your lovely pictures and description, looks like you guys did a perfect job. Congratulations!

    Wee Scotch looks so adorable as a Roman 😀

    Congratulations to your sister, Diana, for the successful marathon and fund-raising.

    1. Thanks Nadia. We don't get a chance to celebrate many other American holidays in Dubai but this one is a must for me because it is so family and friend oriented and really keeps us connected with those back home.

  3. First off, congrats to your sister for her achievements. That's amazing!

    Thank you for sharing your day with you…I've never celebrated Thanksgiving, so I love reading all these posts to get an idea of what it's all about 🙂

    The menu looked awesome…you're like super-chef! Hope there were no clumsy incidents? 🙂

    And Wee Scotch looks adorable!!! Both as a Roman and a beer thief 😉

  4. So great to share your thankgiving through this snapshot. I love the way we make our own expat traditions with friends as we are usually so far from family. Bravo to your sister – what an excellent cause. Your menu looks amazing – gorgeous. Very impressed by a man that can do flowers and scented candles! Hope he's training Wee Scotch to be helpful in that department (so cute).

  5. Oh and I just looked at the "brining" link you posted… I used Alton Brown's brining recipe last year and it turned out great! Although I'm not sure if putting that mixture in the cavity of the bird did anything… and I like to stuff my bird because it feels more "Thanksgiving-y" to me… Do you think the steeped mixture in the cavity made a difference? Or did you do that part?

    1. I actually don't use Alton's brine but I do use his aromatics and "turkey triangle" method every year which has worked out great for me. I honestly don't know if the stuffing with aromatics do anything but I figure, what's the harm right?

      The brine I use has oranges, lemons, rosemary, peppercorns, and water (no stock). And the salt and sugar of course.

  6. Everything looks so delicious! I absolutely love your white serve ware with the handles… Can those go in the oven? Did you get them in Dubai?

    How did the green bean casserole turn out?

    I hope next year I can find the time and energy to put some effort into actually decorating the house and making the table look pretty! I've been so focused on cooking that I somehow forgot that Thanksgiving isn't a barn dance. At least I cleaned prior! Wow, even that's a lie… I hired a maid service.

    Oh, and just between you and me- isn't it the teeniest bit irritating when people bring you flowers without a vase or anything and you have to stop what you're doing to put them in a vase? Just saying.

    1. The white serving ware (ovensafe) my husband bought from Debenhem's in 2008 for our 1st Thanksgiving in Dubai. I've since gone back to get more but haven't seen any after that year and now there is no kitchen section at all in Debenham's!

      You can see in the photo that I had to use my Pyrex for the green beans – which came out pretty good but I forgot to salt them when I threw them in to the dish so was a bit bland for me. Plus the fried onions really were a the end of their shelf life and I think were a little stale as a result. But the cream of mushroom was awesome!

      Funny – I thought the same about the flowers and actually had some vases prepared in case anyone did bring me flowers – but since the crowd were regulars and knew me quite well – they opted to bring alcohol instead 🙂

      1. Yes alcohol is better! 🙂 I was bummed when Debenhams's kitchen section went away! You scored a some good finds!

        Your brine sounds nice!

    1. I'm surprised he knew what to do with it! At first, I thought that my husband had slung the cooler over Wee Scotch. He's learning new things fast at that age!