Thanksgiving is one cultural pastime that the US hasn’t made a point of enforcing on the rest of the world. It’s a pity, really, because the tradition of stuffing yourself with turkey on the last weekend of November is something that has appeal beyond the States.
Thanksgiving commemorates the anniversary of the first European pilgrims landing in the US and their subsequent rescue by Native Americans, who taught the newcomers how to fish, hunt and harvest in the New World in 1621. Another theory relates Thanksgiving back to settlers of Virginia’s Jamestown, who celebrated the first Thanksgiving as a version of the UK’s harvest festival.
Turkey is the centrepiece dish of the feast: fitting considering the bird originates from the Americas. Today it’s thought that about 46 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving (compared with a measly 22 million at Christmas and 19 million at Easter), though the popularity of the bird isn’t limited to the dinner table. US Founding Father Benjamin Franklin is said to have been dismayed that the bald eagle was chosen ahead of the turkey as America’s mascot, saying: ‘The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.’ Maybe, but it wouldn’t look quite as cool on the back of a biker’s jacket.
Thanksgiving is traditionally enjoyed at home with friends, family and a home-cooked meal, although if you’re too lazy to cook on Thursday November 24, there are plenty of Dubai restaurants dishing up a feast. Here’s our pick of the best.
Baker & Spice
This Souk Al Bahar favourite will be serving a family-style version of the Thanksgiving feast. In fact, so committed is Baker & Spice to home-grown ingredients that, in the absence of locally reared turkeys, it will be offering a tasty (and enormous) whole roast chicken that can serve up to six people. Baker & Spice will also prepare and deliver a feast to your home. The menu includes corn chowder (Dhs28 per person), roast chicken with roasted and sweet potatoes (Dhs275, serves four to six), organic okra with lemon zest and pistachio (Dhs28 per person), pumpkin, squash, chickpea and cabbage succotash (Dhs28 per person), sourdough stuffing (Dhs38 per person), apple and cranberry relish (Dhs28), pumpkin pie (Dhs160, serves four to six) and pecan pie (Dhs180, serves four to six). Orders must be made at least four days in advance.
Dukkan Al Manzil, Downtown Dubai, firstname.lastname@example.org (04 425 2240).
This venue will dish up Thanksgiving treats all day on November 24. Dishes include oven-roasted turkey, maple glazed sweet potatoes, herb roast chicken with giblets, poached salmon steaks with asparagus veloute, roast lamb with apple chutney, honey-glazed duck breast on red cabbage, and an irresistible dessert buffet. For those who like their turkey to go, Boulevard Gourmet is offering Thanksgiving takeaway treats (turkey, pumpkin and dried apricot quiche and pumpkin pie) from November 23-25, with dishes starting at Dhs75.
Dhs125 (lunch), Dhs155 (dinner). 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-midnight. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, Baniyas Road (04 205 7333).
This Grand Hyatt venue offers a Thanksgiving brunch on Friday November 25, featuring favourites such as roast turkey with baked squash, mashed potato, broccoli and cranberry sauce. For kids there’s face painting, balloon making and plenty of other rambunctious activities.
Dhs195 (soft drinks), Dhs250 (house beverages). Dhs95 (children aged six to 12). 12.30pm-4pm. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha (04 317 2222).
Seafire’s three-course Thanksgiving set menu is enough to get even non-Americans in the spirit. Starters include scallops and pumpkin purée, with a main of honey-glazed turkey breast and ending with Granny Smith apple pie and pecan praline ice cream.
Dhs295 (food only), 6pm-11.30pm. Seafire, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Sloane’s will be serving Thanksgiving food with a twist on November 24, offering turkey with \trimmings and pumpkin-inspired desserts.
Dhs220 (food only). 7pm-11.30pm. Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Cook your own Thanksgiving feast
Chef Andrew Paderes of The Gramercy – one of the many restaurants laying on a Thanksgiving spread this year – talks us through some of the dishes on offer.
Chef Andrew’s advice is to make sure the bird is completely thawed before cooking. ‘Partially frozen birds take longer to cook and too much water will give an ugly result,’ he says. Preheat the oven to 370˚C for at least 20 minutes. The cooking time depends on the size of the bird, but internal temperature should reach 180˚C. ‘For a nice, brown colour, baste the bird with oil, paprika and soy sauce. Baste once again towards the end of the cooking time,’ advises Andrew. ‘Use a rack so the bird doesn’t sit on the pan – this way you’ll have dripping for the gravy. When cooked, set aside at room temperature. Five minutes before serving, pop it back in the oven for crispy skin.’
‘Roast some onions, carrots, celery and the turkey bones until they’re caramelised, then put them in a pot, add water and leave to simmer. Once reduced, take the leftover turkey trimmings and sauté until brown. Then add to the stock and continue reducing the gravy. Make sure you always skim off the oil on top as you’re reducing the mix, as it affects the taste of the stock. We also make a roux – one part butter, one part flour – and add a spoonful. You know the gravy is ready when it clings to the spoon.’
‘Sprouts are really tough vegetables. Chop off the bottom stalk and score the base with a cross so the tough outer layer can be easily peeled off. Then glaze with a little butter and season with salt, then blanche for two or three minutes.’
‘We don’t serve the traditional stuffing,’ admits Andrew. ‘We use couscous and green apples. Dice the apple into small pieces. Heat a sauté pan and melt two tablespoons of butter and sauté the apple. Add the sugar and sauté until brown. In a separate pot, mix the stock and apple juice and bring to a boil. Place the couscous in a bowl and mix in the apple. Add the boiling stock and shake to blend, then cover with cling-film straight away. Rest for at least four minutes until the couscous absorbs the liquid. Remove the film and, using a fork, add the butter and parsley and fluff the couscous.’
‘Sweet potatoes are basically the same as normal potatoes, just a little more fibrous,’ explains Andrew. ‘Chop the potatoes and boil until al dente – three or four minutes per kilo is usually enough. Afterwards, season with salt, pepper and spices – I like cumin – then add a little olive oil and honey. Finish them off in the oven until tender – that takes three or four minutes. The mistake many people make is that they don’t twice-cook sweet potatoes. You should keep the skin on when you boil them – it saves all the flavour. Peeling the potatoes is a crime because you’re throwing away all the good stuff.’
The day after…
According to The Gramercy manager Anthony Soethout, who was brought up in the New York borough of Queens, the ‘Day-After Sandwich’ is almost as big a Thanksgiving tradition as the turkey dinner itself. ‘You take your turkey, potatoes, stuffing and everything else, and throw them between two slices of bread. You know why? Because you’re too stuffed to cook anything the next day – and depending on how much you had to drink over Thanksgiving, the day after is not a good day to be playing with knives, you know what I mean?’ We think so, Anthony, we think so…
The Gramercy Thanksgiving lunch runs from November 20-24, noon-3pm, Dhs135 (food only); dinner is served from 7pm-midnight, Dhs225 (food only). Turkey sandwiches will be served for lunch on November 25. The Gramercy, DIFC (04 437 7511).