Celebrating a Canadian Thanksgiving or Two

EDMONTON— Our first Canadian Thanksgiving felt and tasted achingly familiar.

Reminding me of our country’s New England beginnings, this statutory holiday celebrates the harvest and other events of the past year, and includes a true feast centering around a turkey.

Farmers’ market shoppers stocking up for Canadian Thanksgiving (Photos by Sarah Abruzzese)

However, Canadian Thanksgiving wasn’t established until 1957 and takes place on the second Monday in October. (Canadians are geniuses about holidays. There is pretty much a three day weekend a month with the exception of maybe two months a year.)

We lucked out and celebrated our first Canadian Thanksgiving twice — once on Sunday where our friends got their hands on a fresh turkey — and again last Monday (the actual day) with other friends, who prepared not one but two turkeys.

Both events were delicious and better yet filled with great conversation, good friends and wonderful wine.

At the Sunday Thanksgiving not only did we have the fresh turkey, which was cooked according to a Martha Stewart recipe, we ate creamy mashed potatoes, a wonderful spinach and cheese dish, green beans with spicy peppers, crusty rolls and so much more that I can’t remember.

The highlights for me were the juicy perfectly cooked bird and then those potatoes as well as the yummy spinach. (I’d never had spinach at Thanksgiving before and wow was it good with that gooey cheese.)

My contribution was a bit questionable. I know this sounds crazy but I’d never made pie before. (I just annoyingly critique the ones my sister makes every Thanksgiving.) I picked an Ina Garten Deep-Dish Apple Pie recipe knowing that you can never go wrong with the Barefoot Contessa.

For whatever reason, it felt like I made a 10 lb. pie. It was giant, a behemoth, so heavy that it was impossible to pick-up one-handed.

The negatives, which if I write about cooking enough you’ll come to realize that I LOVE to critique my work. (It’s actually a family trait, which can be a bit baffling for guests as my mother, the professional caterer, rarely goes wrong but we always like to discuss what would make it EVEN better.)

The recipe called for ground allspice, which overwhelmed my taste buds as I ate. Additionally it called for a top crust that got slightly burned.

The upside is that the outer crust also trapped so much moisture into the pie that when the apples cooked they became almost creamy they were so tender.  Also on the plus side were the wonderful cinnamon flavor with hints of orange and lemon from the zest and juice that the recipe required.

I took the uncooked pie over to our friends house and popped it in the oven while we ate our dinner so that the wonderful smells of roasted turkey married with the fabulous smells of cinnamon.

What could be better?

We enjoyed hot apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream while watching the New England Patriots defeat the Denver Broncos, which only added to that familiar Thanksgiving day feeling.

It was an amazing night and I walked away eight hours later feeling more at home than I had previously.

Thanksgiving Take Two 

Another day, another Thanksgiving meal. Our friends, who live in our building, made two turkeys as they were expecting a crush of people. The turkeys were juicy and flavorful. With this they made roasted carrots with honey, freshly baked biscuits, roasted potatoes, greens with bacon and so much more that I can’t recall despite the fact that it was only a few days ago.

Lots of wonderful wine, great conversation and that warm feeling of congregating around the kitchen that reminds me of home.

This time around, I made the apple pie with a crumble topping. I basically followed Ina Garten’s recipe but cut back to a pinch of allspice and completely removed the top crust layer. In its place I put a mixture of cinnamon, flour, brown sugar and cold butter that I’d combined together with my hands. I piled this atop the pie and then cooked it on a higher heat (425 degrees) for slightly under an hour covering the top of the pie with tinfoil for the last 20 minutes that it cooked so I wouldn’t have a burned top (again).

It was brilliant (if I do say so myself.) The end result was this wonderful gooey pie with most of the things I loved about the Ina Garten recipe — tender apples and hints of orange and lemon — coupled with that  sweet crunchy topping.

I probably am boring you with the details of my two pies but I enjoyed contributing to the meal and it was fun to go outside of my comfort zone and find that it wasn’t that difficult. (And if you want the recipe, email me and I’ll send it.)

Again we finished our meal with warm apple pie and ice cream.

What could be better?

For me, maybe my first ex-pat American Thanksgiving.

It is coming in a few weeks and I intend to make both pies again. This time I’ll make sure I don’t burn Ina Garten’s top crust.

And now comes the pressure of my first turkey. Gulp.