30 November 2010


Last year, I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for 14 people...and I was absolutely exhausted at the end.  If you ever want to have a profound appreciation for your mother, cook a big Thanksgiving with little to no help.  So this year, I ended up deciding that I was not going to repeat last year's dinner.  No...I was going to top it!  I cooked for 22 people instead, including Fab's mother and sister.  I fretted for weeks, because last year, at least I was a student and had time to run everywhere to gather ingredients.  But this year, I am a working woman who works close to 50 hours a week.  Procuring the necessary Thanksgiving ingredients was not going to be an easy task.  Plus, I was going to be introducing Thanksgiving to many a French person, including my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law.  Eek !

In the end, this year turned out way better than last year, because I had great help from roommates and friends, plus I had previous French Thanksgiving experience under my belt.  The surprise of the evening was the stuffing and pecan pie.  Stuffing in France tends to be made of chestnuts (marrons) and various sweetbreads and bread.  I, however, favor my mom's recipe which combines fruit, bread, and savory ingredients.  The pecan pie was gone before I could even blink, and it was shocking because pecan pie is incredibly sweet !  French people + really sweet foods tend to not go together.  But it was a hit !  Recipes for both can be found here.

So how do you successfully put together a Thanksgiving dinner in Paris ?  Here are some pointers:

  • Order your turkey a good two weeks in advance.  And then follow up, especially if you are ordering it from Monoprix or a big supermarket chain.  I ordered a 9.5 kilo turkey from Monoprix two weeks ahead of time, and thankfully went back to check on my order the week before.  Not only was it going to be impossible to order a turkey of that size, but they just weren't going to be able to order the turkeys period, despite having told me that it wouldn't be a problem.  It's useless to argue...the customer is never right here in France.  Fortunately, the nice butcher across the way from my work ordered two 4.5 kilo turkeys for me AND lent me the plats to cook them in.  Which brings me to my next point...
  • If you don't have an oven, the American store Thanksgiving (aptly named) can cook a turkey for you to be ready on Thanksgiving day.  You can also sometimes ask the butchers in France to cook the bird and stuff it for you for the day of.
  • Parisian stores now offer sweet potatoes and cranberries around Thanksgiving.  I lived in Strasbourg last year, and the Simply near my apartment had both.  There are also dried cranberries available in stores, but all of this can be expensive.  I found fresh cranberries at La Grande Epicerie at 5,50 Euros a bag.
  • For baking needs, you can find the following similar ingredients:
    • Evaporated milk =  Gloria lait condensé non sucré (available in entier or 1/2 écremé)
    • Sweetened condensed milk = Nestlé lait condensé sucré (comes in a can and tube; I prefer the can)
    • Brown sugar = sucre vergeoise (comes in blonde (light) and brune (dark))
    • Chicken broth = bouillon de poule; Knorr makes a "Marmite de Bouillon" that is this flavored gelatin that you make with boiling water to produce a broth.  It has always worked well for me.
    • All-Purpose Flour = Type 65 farine
    • Corn starch = Maizena
  • For American ingredients that are harder to find (baking powder, baking soda, Crisco, cream of tartar, cream cheese, peanut butter), you can head to the following places:
  • If you work, and follow the French 9 AM - 7 PM or 8 PM work schedule, sometimes it is better to just order your groceries online.  A couple of good sites are:
Happy Thanksgiving !

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