For me, making a Thanksgiving dinner in Italy is probably 3 times as much work as in America -- or at least what I would normally do in America. First, there are no whole turkeys in the markets. You must go to the butcher shop (macelleria) a week in advance and order a turkey. You need to be sure to ask for the turkey cleaned and without the head and feet. Remember, no one normally buys them this way, so you must be very specific. Each year, we have had to ask that they cut off more of the feet so that the turkey will actually fit in the oven. I also have to ask for something in the 15 pound range because even at this weight it takes up the entire oven. (Everything here is smaller than in the US and the ovens are particularly small.) I have noticed that we also have a little work to do in removing some of the feathers after it arrives; however, the insides are remarkably clean. And, I must admit that these are the best tasting turkeys we have ever eaten. They are fresh from the farmer.
It is not just the turkey that causes me some consternation, however. In America it is easy to go to the store and buy your can of Libbys pumpkin to make soup or pies. Or you can buy the frozen pie or even a ready made pie for your Thanksgiving feast. That is not the case here. First, we heard off to the frutta e verdure (the fruit and vegetable store) to buy a pumpkin. Interestingly, we end up paying as much for the pumpkin to make pie and soup as we do for the turkey. In Italy, they are very particular about what types of pumpkin they eat. Some are for eating, and some are for Halloween. (Halloween is a developing phenomena here, and in our neighborhood we see a few jack o lanterns on display.) The variety for eating is very different than what we find in our stores at Halloween. This year, we had a great deal of difficulty finding pumpkin when we wanted it, so we ended up buying butternut squash and some other variety of squash that looked very similar to a pumpkin but did not have the sweetness.
Making the pie was a three day event. First, Jim cut the pumpkin and cleaned it, and then I baked it until it was well done. Next it was put in a colander to drain, so that all of the excess moisture was taken out. The next day I started to make the pie filling, but wait, pie filling uses evaporated milk. Guess what, there is no evaporated milk here -- at least not in our area. After trying three stores, I decided to make my own evaporated milk. Hours later, it had evaporated. Since I knew that my squash was not as sweet as a normal pumpkin, I decided to make the evaporated milk into condensed, sweetened milk. So, add some more cooking time. The next morning, Thanksgiving, I mixed the pumpkin, condensed milk and other ingredients and put them into the home made pie shell. In an hour, I had the most delicious pumpkin pie. (Note, there is no such thing as all spice here or a can of pumpkin pie spice, so each year, I add a little extra cinnamon, and ginger to the recipe to make up for the missing spices.) I was pleasantly surprised that the pie turned out so well this year. In terms of time and materials; however, it was probably a $100 pumpkin pie.
Our Thanksgiving meals are always missing one essential ingredient of the American Thanksgiving -- cranberry sauce which is not available here. But, in general, we are able to replicate most other elements of the Thanksgiving feast. Each year, as we bring each item to the table, people ask questions about it. The stuffing and the gravy in particular seem very foreign to our Italian friends.
Perhaps our biggest surprise this year was having one of our guests ask about the meat thermometer - what is was and how it is used. We had not realized that meat thermometers were not common here.
Here was our Thanksgiving menu this year:
Antipasti: salami, cheeses, olives, pickles, caprese salad, sliced pears with balsamic on arugula
Pumpkin soup with garlic croutons
Pear, hazelnut and prosciutto stuffing with fennel
Brussel sprouts and carrots
Pumpkin pie with whipped cream
Chocolate Ricotta torta
Visciola ( a local cherry wine)
Buon Appetito! and Happy Holidays. Maree