THANKSGIVING CAME EARLY THIS YEAR

Our friends from Austria visited New York recently and we invited them to Hoboken for dinner. We wanted to serve them something they would not eat in Austria and decided to treat them to a Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, gravy, string beans, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. In Austria, most of these foods are either available only in specialty stores (cranberry sauce, maple syrup) or prepared differently (gravy, sweet potatoes flavored with maple syrup).

I took a minute to tell them that this was a holiday which had no music associated with it, was not religious, and not nationalistic. It was simply a day to give thanks. I think of it as a precious part of American culture.

Terry likes the stuffing cooked separately, and I like it inside the turkey; he likes to add sausage, I prefer a stronger dose of herbs. His gravy is thin and flourless; mine is thick and pourable. We have adapted our respective recipes to avoid contention. It’s only taken ten years…..

When I want to make a pie in Europe, I get stumped by the lack of pie plates. I use strait-sided pans which don’t give the same kind of crust. They also measure in grams and liters and don’t have measuring spoons like ours. I have to do a lot of guessing and improvising.

While the parents are well traveled, I was worried about the reactions of their three children, 4, 13, and 12, to strange food. You know how children are. “What is this, Mommy?” “Ooooh, I don’t like it.” “The potatoes are touching the beans!” They viewed the pumpkin pie suspiciously but once tried, they loved it. Everyone had seconds of everything!

We sent them home with recipes for pumpkin pie, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I’ll share the modified stuffing recipe, though since it is not stuffed into anything, it should probably be called dressing.

STUFFING FOR THANKSGIVING TURKEY

Discard the butt ends of 2 baguettes, then tear or cut the rest of the loaves into ½-1 inch cubes (if the bread is not stale, spread the cubes on a baking sheet and heat at 250 degrees until dry—about an hour). Mix 15 sprigs of chopped parsley leaves, and 6 branches of chopped sage leaves with the bread cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet and brown 1 pound of breakfast sausage, breaking it into pieces about the size of a quarter. Remove from the skillet and put on paper towels.

Add to the skillet 1 diced onion, 5 stalks of diced celery and cook for a minute. Add 2 peeled, diced apples, and cook 2 minutes more. (We also add a pinch of cayenne or a few drops of Tabasco sauce.)

In a separate bowl, beat four eggs slightly, then lightly mix everything together.

Butter a 16-inch baking pan, spread the stuffing mixture evenly and paint with 4 tablespoons of melted butter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.