My favorite time of the year is drawing near, Thanksgiving, and it got me thinking about all of the different places that I’ve celebrated this holiday through out my life. One place in particular was the house that I grew up in, in Brooklyn. We had a formal dining room with a large wooden table and eight chairs. I knew that the holidays were near when my father brought up the extra leaves for our drop leaf table. This act signified the start of the season filled with the trifecta of family, food and friends.
Now, I am a wife and a mother hosting my own Thanksgivings, albeit very far from the homes of my youth, which I think is why I put such emphasis on having my annual grandiose Thanksgiving in Bulgaria. The first thing I do is research recipes. I start by gathering some of my favorite recipe books, old November issues of culinary magazines and my printed out Thanksgiving recipe file. My goal is to find a theme or common idea to bind the dinner together, one year my theme was Provençal flavors. This year will be no different, except for the fact, I will be visiting the US 2 weeks before Thanksgiving, so I will be able to stock up on research materials and if need be smuggle a few bags of Ocean Spray cranberries in my luggage (FYI – they travel well!)
While I am not certain what recipes I will be preparing for the actually Thanksgiving holiday, I do know what I am planning to do with the leftovers. Like last year, I am entering The Culinary Institute of America’s Top Turkey Scholarship competition. The only difference is that this year I need to win… Why you ask?… Well, I will make the formal announcement soon. Stay tuned!
The premise of the competition is to come up with a fantastic recipe to make use of your leftover turkey meat. Last year, I made Turkey and Cranberry Raviolis with Gravy but this year, I wanted to find a harmonious collaboration between my American heritage and my adopted homeland Bulgaria. One dish in particular came to mind and that was Mousakka. The dish would lend itself well to a day after Thanksgiving meal because of its simple preparation. Now, before a cultural war breaks out between the Eastern European nations, this is not only a Greek dish, but Bulgarian as well. All of the neighboring countries Eastern Europe or former Ottoman Empire share many similarities with their cuisines. That being said, I first experienced Mousakka in August 2001, during my inaugural trip to my husband’s homeland. I finally learned how to make Mousakka when my mother-in-law lived with us in New York after my daughter Maya was born in 2003. The recipe she shared with me was not exact, nor could we communicate in the same language, so in order to explain the dish to me she prepared the dish and I made notes and observations about her ingredients and technique. It was quite a interesting experience.
I adapted her original recipe to use turkey meat and thyme instead of ground pork and summer savory to capture the essence of Thanksgiving. I also added some dried cranberries because I love the way the tart sweetness blends nicely with the other savory elements.
18 oz (500g) ground turkey
18 oz (500g) potatoes, cut into ½” pieces
7 oz (200g) sweet potatoes, cut into ½” pieces
3.5 oz (100g) or 2 lg carrots, cut into ½” pieces
3.5 (100g) tomatoes, peeled and seeded, roughly chopped
1 large onion chopped
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)
1 tbsp thyme
1 cup chicken or turkey stock
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste.
Pre heat the oven to 350F (180C)
In a large pot, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. When hot add the onions and carrots cook till onions are soft about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat; add the turkey meat to the pot along with the cranberries and herbs. Season with salt and pepper then pour into a 9 x 13 inch dish. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes till the potatoes are soft. Remove from oven.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together with the milk, season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the dish and return to oven for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or till the egg mixture has set and has a golden hue.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 – 15 mintues before slicing and serving.
I would love to hear from my readers about some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes, menus and memories. Thanks for sharing!