Thanksgiving (in 3 hours!)

Thanksgiving is the quintessential holiday in the US.

But obviously, I've been back so long that getting up this morning, not having to roast a turkey,

I forget about it.

Looking at the supermarket display, hoping for dinner inspiration,

I spot a turkey. A turkey? A turkey!

I grab the smallest one I can find (a miserly 6.4 lbs), add some sweet potatoes, cranberries and a couple more small things, and this is all I can shlep onto the bus.



My (very small) Thanksgiving Menu

for 4 people


Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Spatchcocked Turkey with Mint and Preserved Lemon Butter and Gravy

Cranberry Sauce

Salad (no recipe for that, I'm afraid…)

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I know, I know, no brussel sprouts, no green beans, no stuffing… 3 hours are 3 hours, after all!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

5 large sweet potatoes (about 4 lbs)

Milk, whole





Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into chunks.

In a pot, cover the sweet potatoes with salted water and bring to a boil.

Boil on medium heat until the sweet potatoes are soft, a fork should easily go through them,

about 15 minutes.

Strain the potatoes and put them back into the pot.

Let them dry on very low heat (or on the turned off, still warm cooktop) for about 1 minute.

Mash with a potato masher, add milk and butter a little at the time, until you have the right taste and consistency, if you like add a pinch of nutmeg.

Turkey with Mint and Preserved Lemon Butter

1 small turkey, about 6.5 lbs (remember, European ovens are tiny!)

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature

1 small bunch of fresh mint, stems removed, leaves finely chopped

1/3 cup preserved lemon (rind only, rinsed, finely chopped)




Preserved lemons (Citrons Confits) are a Moroccan speciality, I make them myself and always have some in a jar in the fridge. These need to be made at least 5 days in advance!

They can of course also be found in some stores as well as online.

In a small bowl mix the butter, mint and lemon to a paste.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Remove the turkey's backbone (or have the butcher do it), keep it for the gravy.

Spatchcock (flatten) the turkey, you might have to cut around the breastbone a bit to do so.

Put the turkey onto an oven tray meat side up, then with your fingers gently separate the skin from the flesh, taking care to break the skin as little as possible.

Spread the butter under and over the skin.

Season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes uncovered, the loosely place a piece of aluminum foil over it, so the skin won't dry out. Bake another 90 minutes before removing the foil. Roast uncovered for another 30 - 40 minutes, until the temperature measured in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180°F.

Take out of the oven and cover loosely with foil (do not cover it tightly, or the skin will get soggy).

Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before serving.


Backbone of the turkey, cut in 4 or 5 pieces

1 Tbs butter

2 shallots, peeled and coarsly cut

7 oz crème fraîche or sour cream

7 oz white wine

2 cups chicken broth

1 Tbs corn starch

pan drippings

While the turkey is roasting, prepare the gravy.

In a pan, melt the butter over medium heat, add the backbone and sauté with the shallots until the bone is nicely browned and the shallots are caramelized.

Add the white wine and let evaporate until you only have a third of the wine left.

Add the broth and let simmer for 10 minutes on low heat.

Strain into a smaller pan, remove 3 oz of the liquid to cool separately.

Whisk the corn starch into the cooled liquid, add to the content of the pan, which you have brought back to a boil, and let simmer for about one minute.

Add the crème fraîche and keep warm.

Right before serving, add the pan drippings and whisk until mixed well.

Cranberry Sauce

6 oz Cranberries

1/2 cup Birnel (a pear juice concentrate) or 1/2 cup sugar

the zest of one lemon

Put all the ingredients into a small pot and cook on low heat until most of the berries have burst.

Let cool before serving.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I'll admit, here I cheat. I buy a ready-made, unbaked

shortpastry (there's no pie crust where I live), and prebake it.


Use your own recipe for a pre baked pie crust, or buy it. I won't tell.








1 9-inch pie crust, prebaked, cooled

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbs dark rum

3/4 cups brown sugar

2 pieces of stem ginger in syrup, grated

1 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

a pinch each ground cloves and nutmeg

whipped cream for serving

Heat the oven to 325°C.

In a large bowl whisk the pumpkin, the eggs and yolk, the cream, the grated stem ginger and the rum.

In a smaller bowl mix the brown sugar, the salt and the spices.

Whisk the sugar mixture into the pumpkin mixture, and mix well.

Pour the mix into the pie crust and bake for about 1 hour.

The center will still be jiggly, but will set when cooling.

Let the pie cool completely and refrigerate a couple of hours (and up to 2 days) before serving.


Serve with a dollop of double cream, whipped or not.