By Peter Minaki
As Greeks living in the US and Canada, Thanksgiving is an easy celebration to adopt. Thanksgiving dinners are big, drawn out affairs. Greek dinners are big, plenty of food for everybody and it’s only natural that the Greek Thanksgiving table offers a hybrid of Greek and American classics.
First, build your menu around the centerpiece – that being the turkey. Buy an organic, local turkey and give it a Greek twist: a stuffing with ground meat, giblets, raisins, pine nuts, rice and herbs and spices of your choice. Allspice comes to mind.
Mashed potatoes and gravy from turkey drippings are the natural sides but why don’t you add some garlic and Greek yogurt in the mash? I make my cranberry sauce scented with cloves and orange zest. Roasted root vegetables are a favourite in our home and I love tossing them in fresh orange juice, olive oil, thyme, fennel and a splash of wine.
Waiting for the turkey to be ready causes one to think of appetizers or something to nibble on until the big meal is ready: Spanakopita or tyropites (cheese pie), offer some warm olives in citrus and spices, make some dips like Tyrokafteri or roasted red pepper dip with some pita bread wedges and an array of Greek cheeses. Dolmadakia with some Tzatziki for dipping will keep the family at bay until dinner’s ready.
With my family, we like soups now that the cold weather has arrived and a turkey Avgolemono soup is the perfect start to your sit down Thanksgiving dinner. Also, we always have one or two people who don’t like turkey so, being Greek means we have to have everyone participate and eat at the Thanksgiving table. Make a Pastitsio or Moussaka. It may seem like a lot of food but remember we are Greeks…portion control is a fantasy.
It’s Thanksgiving – decide on pumpkin or apple pie then round’out your desserts with one of my favourites, a Galaktoboureko. It’s one of the best Greek desserts. Serve Greek coffee with dessert and have some fun with some coffee cup reading. Invite that “magissa” aunt over to tell our fortunes!
To complete the Greek Thanksgiving table, why not add some Greek wine to help wash down the feast? Think about it: we spend the whole winter thinking summers in Greece so there’s nothing better than uncorking Greece. For your starters, open a bottle of Amalia Brut, a sparkling wine from Mantinia Tselepos or try a Kir Yanni sparkling rose.
You could then open an Agiorghitiko red to go with your turkey or try a Xinomavro/Syrah from northern Greece. If you’re the type that wants to stick to whites with your turkey, a Malagouzia or Assyrtiko will be a sure crowd pleaser.
For dessert, you may offer a Vinsanto from Santorini or a chilled glass of Muscat from Limnos or Samos.
We are Canadians and Americans but we are also proud Greeks and nothing says Greek pride like sharing our Greek heritage at the festive table. Have a delicious, safe and memorable Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends!
Recipe for Greek stuffed turkey (Γαλοπούλα-γεμιστή in Greek)
3 bay leaves
handful of peppercorns
3 cloves of garlic
a bunch of fresh thyme
small handful of parsley
1/2 cup of Mosxato wine
handful of allspice berries
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 cup of salt
enough water to cover the turkey
1 large turkey (5.7kgs) feeds 10
sea salt pepper
combination of dried thyme, oregano and rosemary
Pre-heated 325F oven
Greek turkey Stuffing
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 pork sausages, casings removed
1/2 lb. lean ground pork
1 packet of turkey giblets, finely chopped
1 bay leaf 1 tsp. dry oregano
3/4 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup wild rice
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup of Mosxato wine
1/2 cup of raisins
1 1/2 cups of turkey/vegetable stock
1 cup of chestnuts, chopped
1/2 cup of pine nuts
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. ground clove
*Peter Minaki is a Toronto-born Greek-Canadian who runs kalofagas.ca, one of the most popular Greek food blogs. When he is not cooking he is a financial advisor. You can contact Peter at truenorth67 AT gmail dot com. You many now order Peter’s cookbook, Everything Mediterranean. Visit his site for delicious Greek and Mediterranean recipes at www.kalofagas.ca