If you’re an American, you’ve got the fall holiday trifecta: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We’ve got one under our belt but with Thanksgiving smack dab in the middle of it all, (and so darn early this year), we want to help you from getting caught without a plan for the feast of the year that makes you feel oh-so-American. (Sorry, Canadians, I’m too late for you.)
A few years ago, five of my friends and their families gathered to pay homage to our motherland by stuffing our faces. It’s what we Americans do best! It soothed my expat soul to have an authentic taste of home for just one day. I asked my friends for their tips and tricks for creating a Thanksgiving meal that actually tasted like the real thing, so buckle your pilgrim shoes and hold onto your capotains, here we go!
ALL ABOUT THE FIXIN’S
We can vouch for ordering turkeys from La Provençale (you need a membership here), or we’ve also heard you can order from Cactus and Delhaize and the Eirelux Irish shop. Order at least two weeks in advance and you may have to pick up on the day of. But that can be a good thing, considering typical fridge size here. Could your fridge even hold that bird?! And don’t forget your oven size, either… you might have to bring your measuring tape when ordering. That will go over really well with der Metzlerei (Luxembourgish for butcher, don’t you know?).
Stuff that Bird, Dress that Bird!
You’re in luck with Stove Top if you want to buy it online here. The newest addition to Luxembourg importing our beloved American products is Home From Home. This is absolutely worth a visit. But we’ve had a good experience making our own stuffing/dressing (what do you call it?). My friend combines this recipe and this recipe and adds pine nuts because she’s fancy like that. If you’re making your own, look on the bright side: you have an abundance of delicious, fresh artisan bread at your fingertips, just waiting to be chopped into cubes and dried. No doubt it will take your stuffing to a whole new level.
Yams and Mallows
We have bought sweet potatoes at Colruyt next to the other potatoes; at Cora not even close to the other potatoes but in the section that has pre-packaged, pre-chopped, and exotic fruits and vegetables; and Auchan in the foreign produce section. And if you’re like, “What about yams?” I still have no idea what the difference is and now you will have to google it for me. They taste exactly the same to me, so I’m not too worried about it. You can buy mini-marshmallows here or we’ve bought bigger ones at Colruyt in the summer. You can also often find them in the foreign foods aisle at Delhaize. If you’re in a bind, Cora sells pink (yet vanilla flavored) marshmallows in their candy section year-round. I have been known to cut up my big marshmallows with kitchen shears to create mini ones…. Odd shapes aside, it works okay.
Do you do Jell-O salads for Thanksgiving? No? Just me? Hmmm. Well, if you need it, just know you can buy several flavors here. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Cool Whip will not be your companion in this season of your life. Spring for the real stuff. (Refer to the below section on whipped cream.)
If there’s one thing in abundance in Luxembourg, it’s a variety of potatoes. However, you’ll just have to accept that there won’t be an Idaho russet, and that you’ll have to cope somehow. We’ve had the best luck mashing potatoes with the smaller, Yukon gold types. But don’t mash too much or the starch will retaliate in the form of shoe-glue. My friend has warmed up her dairy components (milk, butter) before adding, and she says it helps reduce the paste-like consistency. Bottom line: mash with care, and not too much!
If you need a tongue twister to help you remember, here you go: too much mash results in mush. You’re welcome.
Green Bean Casserole
Green beans are in every store and you can even find cream of mushroom soup here. But the crispy onion strings on top? Good luck re-creating that. Good thing we have the Internet! Go search those variations on green bean casseroles now! I’m positive there are other topping options that are just waiting to be discovered.
Berry, Berry Tasty
That canned gelatinous wonder version of cranberry sauce can be found here, or you can make your own. The packages of real cranberries come out in the fall. We’ve seen bags of them in the produce sections, specifically Cora and Auchan.
Home on the Ranch
Ranch dressing has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, yet is virtually unknown in the rest of the world. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) And, honestly, I have a hard time living without it. If you can’t live without it either, you can purchase an actual bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing here! That’s exciting. Or ask your mom to send you the packets from home (thanks, Mom!). Or you can also make your own delicious, from-scratch version here. Delight in the high quality mayonnaise and sour cream options here (I use crème fraiche or fromage frais for sour cream) and douse that arugula in a taste of home. I’ve even found buttermilk at Cora right next to the cream. (Good luck with the salad portion … you’ll have to try all the lettuces and see which you like best.)
Pie Crust is a Must
For a graham cracker crust with a gingerbread twist, we’ve loved the Lotus speculoos crackers. For a more bland but buttery crust, Leibniz butterkeks work great. Find both in the cracker aisles in any grocery store. If you’re dying for a traditional, flaky pie crust made with the stuff that only an American could invent (shortening, of course!), you can buy Crisco here. Or skip the shortening and use what the Europeans have perfected (butter, of course!) in place of shortening in any pie crust recipe. I’ve personally tried butter instead of shortening in this recipe and had excellent results.
Pumpkin …. For Dessert?
As far as I can tell, Europeans favor pumpkin for soup. So while I’m dutifully trying to convert my neighbors to pumpkin roll, pumpkin bars and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, I’m not sure pumpkin pie will be taking root here anytime soon. But there’s good news. You can buy Libby’s canned pumpkin puree here. Or several of us have had nice results making our own from the actual thing using this recipe.
Let’s face the facts: Any nuts in Luxembourg will cost one arm and two legs, but for Thanksgiving, it’ll be worth the splurge. The closest to buying in cheaper bulk we’ve found is big-ish plastic containers at Colruyt. But you can buy small bags of most nuts just about anywhere, with Auchan and Cora having a large selection. Good luck with that 50€ pecan pie! Eek!
Baking Chocolate Tip
If you go rogue with things like chocolate pie, my one tip is the baking chocolate I’ve used. I’ve tried Lindt Excellence 99% cacao for unsweetened baking chocolate with good success. I’ve used the same brand in 85% cacao for bittersweet. The baking chocolate in the baking aisle has sugar in the ingredients, so I’ve never tried it. Look for mine in the chocolate/candy aisle.
Dollop on Top
In case you haven’t noticed, there are a half-dozen types of dairy creams. We always just look at the picture (a dollop of white on fruit is the one that comes to mind). Just know that for the whipped cream that actually whips, if it says 30% or 33% on the package, you’re in business.
Set the Table
If you need table linens or napkins, carafes or cutting boards, check out my post on my favorite home goods stores here. You can also see my list of grocery stores with a few tips for Americans shopping in Luxembourg here.
Go forth and give thanks!
Special thanks to my friends Tasha, Star, Mandy, Megan, and Becky who contributed to this article. Also to the Luxembourg Ex-Pats Facebook group for several people who answered my query about turkeys.