You may remember from my post last year that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. On Thanksgiving Americans celebrate our “founding” by the pilgrims, which ignores the centuries-long habitation of North America by the Indians, but never mind. I love Thanksgiving for celebrating family and friends and for preparing and eating a delicious, traditional feast.
Last year we didn’t cook a Thanksgiving dinner because our kitchen is teeny, and my friend Kate McKenna was in town and we were leaving the next day for Sicily. This year we had mushroom risotto made from dried mushrooms that a friend brought us from Poland (thank you, Wiola), and it was sensational—earthy and fragrant and tasting of fall. But it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. So on Thanksgiving night, we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday.
Rome was expecting another round of protests Saturday, and we hoped to miss the protesters by leaving our apartment about 9:30 to go grocery shopping. Michael bought two bags of fresh cranberries at Campo de’ Fiori the previous weekend, and I had found most of the ingredients for pumpkin pie, including canned pumpkin (not Libby’s but a can labeled “American pumpkin”). Our Saturday shopping list included a turkey and ingredients for stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.
We planned to stop for breakfast at Caffè Farnese, but to our surprise, Piazza Farnese was packed with hundreds of protesters waving red flags and waiting patiently to hear speeches and march to the Ministry of Education. Undaunted, we slipped down a side street and had cappuccini and cornetti on Campo de’ Fiori.
After breakfast we stopped at a butcher shop to buy the turkey and were so excited to find one! Unfortunately it was too big for our oven, so the butcher cut it up and wrapped the breast for us. We then bought almost everything else on our list and headed home around 11 a.m. with four HEAVY bags, feeling smug that we hadn’t run into any more protesters. As we slipped around the last building before our apartment, what should we see but a small phalanx of protesters just passing our home. Fortunately, they were peaceful.
We unloaded our bags, and I began making the pumpkin pie. We had to improvise because we couldn’t find evaporated milk, ground cloves, or ground ginger. We substituted a combination of milk and cream; we ground some whole cloves, permanently pitting our coffee and spice grinder; and after doing some research on the web, we squeezed ginger juice from fresh ginger and used that. That pie was heaven! I LOVE pumpkin pie, and we have only one small piece left, darn! I guess I’ll have to find another can of American pumpkin.
During the pie making, the protesters were out in force, and police helicopters flew down the Tevere and right over our house, making quite a racket! Around 2:30 a group of protesters, accompanied by a police escort, marched down our street and over the Ponte Sisto bridge. I was glad when that was over! At least the protest on Saturday was not violent, unlike the protest the week before.
Michael made two kinds of cranberry sauce: Cranberry Port Conserve, which we have made every year since it was published in Gourmet in 1996 and which is the most fabulous adult cranberry sauce ever (and don’t adults deserve a fabulous cranberry sauce?), and Cranberry, Tangerine, and Crystalized Ginger Relish, another show-stopper. I call the latter Tim’s Cranberry Sauce, because our niece Donna and her husband, Tim, and their family spent Thanksgiving with us in 2007, and although Tim proclaimed that he hated cranberry sauce, he loved this one so much that he begged me for the recipe the next year and made it himself!
Michael then made the stuffing from bread, celery, chestnuts, sausages, and herbs. I don’t know what else was in that stuffing, but it was so good. He then prepared the turkey breast with a rub of garlic, dry mustard, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, fresh thyme, olive oil, lemon juice, and white wine. He used the rub under and on top of the skin. Excellent!
We also had mashed potatoes and a yummy mushroom gravy, which Michael made with the cutest mushrooms—funghi pioppini—onions, sage, and sherry.
We started cooking at 11:30 or so and began eating at 7:30 or so. As always with Thanksgiving, it took eight hours to cook and about 45 minutes to eat!
We couldn’t move after that delicious dinner, so we watched one of my all-time favorite movies, The Great Escape. The perfect celebration! I’m thankful!