In previous years, planning Thanksgiving dinner at our place involved lots of menu pre-planning starting in early October leading up to the big day in November (Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday of the month). This year, for a whole host of reasons – one of them being a last-minute getaway to the Maldives where we returned 2 days before the big turkey day – I did hardly any menu research and ended up using most of last year’s menu.
Thanksgiving is just another ordinary working day in Dubai, not the gluttonous friends and family gathering holiday in the US. In fact, my building shut off water the day of our Thanksgiving celebrations. Non-emergency maintenance during one of the most important cooking holidays of the year? That would never happen in the States. It would have been a challenge to prepare a feast for 15 without running water but thank the Thanksgiving Gods that mine was one of five floors unaffected by the water shut-off.
Over the past five years, I’ve worked out a shopping strategy for all the ingredients that I need for the turkey feast. I know where to get my frozen cranberries (Park ‘n Shop on Al Wasl), where to get my fresh herbs (usually Spinneys or Waitrose), where to get my dry goods (Carrefour or Geant) and where to get the more uniquely American products (Choithrams on Al Wasl or Safestway on Sheikh Zayed Road). Although I must confess that for the last two years, I haven’t stepped foot into Safestway at all as many of the American products that I need can now be found elsewhere.
I also glance at the prices of turkeys in every supermarket that I visit from early November onwards. This year, turkeys from a brand called “Jennie-O.” which I’d never heard, were stocked across all the hypermarkets. Choithrams (on Al Wasl road) was the only one that had Butterball it seemed and I snagged the biggest one they had at 7 kg (15.4 lbs).
Minutes before we left for the airport for our Maldives flight, I lugged our Butterball bird out of the freezer and into the fridge to defrost. Upon our return to Dubai, I was in full Thanksgiving mode – cleaning, prepping, cooking…
I endeavored to do as little cooking as possible on the actual day of Thanksgiving so that I could relax and mingle with my friends. The stuffing, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, and turkey stock for the gravy was all made the day before so that left the simple salad, the Brussels sprouts, the mashed potatoes (Scotch’s job) and the gravy for the actual day.
I am annoyed at myself for marring the beautiful skin on the turkey. Butterball provides a “turkey lifter” made of twine to help lift the turkey into and out of the roasting pan. As I was transferring the turkey from the pan to the cutting board, I decided to tilt the turkey so that all the juices would flow into the pan instead of overflow on my cutting board. In the process the twine broke the turkey skin on both sides – Grrr!
Our biggest challenge this year was making the gravy. Our chef friend and gravy-maker extraordinaire who has whipped up our turkey gravy for the last five years was bedridden with a viral infection which left the gravy making (gulp!) to Scotch and I. I decided that my strategy for making really good gravy was to drink an excess of Champagne…
As we mixed in flour to the turkey oil drippings, Scotch, myself, and friend Nik scratched our heads over how much flour we should have added and how thick the roux should have been. Maybe it was the Champagne or just plain stupidity, but I ended up throwing all the turkey stock into the thickened roux which resulted in a lot of sputtering and spattering and lumpiness and Scotch had to step in to separate half the mixture as the gravy started to get as thick as glue.
Luckily my turkey stock was quite concentrated to begin with so even with a few splashes of water to thin out the gooey gravy, the final result still drew lots of raves from our dinner guests. Whew!
As I mentioned, this year’s menu was very similar to last year – I made side dishes of cranberry-apple pork dressing, creamed corn, truffle mashed potatoes, maple bacon Brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. I also made a pomegranate liver pate and cheesy-spicy crab dip for cocktail hour. My guests brought over a spiced pumpkin cake and “turtle brownies” for dessert.
Maybe next year I’ll get my act together for once and post some of these recipes.
And of course no Thanksgiving at Ginger and Scotch is complete without jello shots.