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El albergue

El albergue

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Madrid

My first Thanksgiving abroad being a little on the disappointing side (going to a restaurant with the 100+ students in my study abroad program just wasn’t quite perfect), I was determined that this year it would be everything a Thanksgiving should be.  My roommates were heartily in agreement, so we made a pact with another friend to hold a lovely meal together.  So by last Sunday, we were ready to get ready.  And, oh, did we enjoy spreading out the Thanksgiving joy over as many days as possible. 

We wanted to take cookies to our schools to share with the teachers, cookies being easier to transport than other more traditional turkey day treats, so Sunday evening I whipped up a great big double batch of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, an essential fall goody a college roommate introduced me to.  I wanted the cookies to be as fresh as possible on Tuesday, when we were planning on taking the cookies, so I waited to bake the dough until Monday evening.  13 dozen cookies take a long time to bake though, so I had a rather full night of it.  It was all worth it though to pull out the marvelously moist and seductively steaming pillows of pumpkin and chocolate (oh alliteration) from the oven, popping one into my mouth every other sheet.  SO good.  And then during coffee break at school on Tuesday, I asked the lunch ladies to pop them into the oven for a few minutes to get them all warm and perfect before serving them…they looked a little worse for wear after bumping around in my purse during my morning commute, but they still tasted good!!!  And I like to think that they imparted a little bit of Thanksgiving joy to the teachers I work with.

Deep-dish apple pie, oh yeah
On Wednesdays, I get off of work before lunch (translation = 1 o’clock), so the past Wednesday I hurried home as soon as I could to make the pies for our Thanksgiving feast.  After a quick lunch, I moved on to heroically blending an enormous amount of all-butter pie crust dough with a fork.  That required muscle baby.  As the dough chilled, I mixed up the batter for the pumpkin pie, kind of playing around with the ingredients since the normally-used sweetened condensed milk would have cost an arm and a leg, not to mention a trip across town to the American food store.  Then, after rolling out a crust with my very classy wine bottle rolling pin (you do what you gotta do) and placing it in our 9x9 baking dish (why buy a pie pan when there’s something functional at hand?), I poured in the batter and placed the whole in the oven, hoping to God that in the strange mix of uncertain pie ingredients and proportions and a completely unmarked oven temperature dial (350 must be around here somewhere) a heavenly work of art would somehow be created to grace our holiday board.  Next, it was time for the apple pie.  What did I have available to bake it in?  Nothing less than a three-inch tall spring form pan.  That’s right, we had a deep dish apple pie, baby.  And to prepare us for the feasting of the next day, I made a quiche in our 13x9 with the leftover pie crust (yes, there was a lot of pie crust).  It was at the moment of biting into that quiche that I received the revelation that is a butter pie crust.  Oh wow.  So flaky and, and, well…glorious.
Stuffing step one: tear apart the bread

Thanksgiving day, we had to work in the morning, but my school graciously let me go before lunch, so I was able to meet up with the other two (who always have short days on Thursdays) at home to buckle down and enter the final stretch of preparations.  On our list: stuffing, gravy, and green bean casserole.  I was pretty uncertain about the first two, since I’d never made them before (one of my roommates was in charge of the green beans, so I didn’t have to worry about those at all), but Kels and I dove right in, chopping, sautéing, boiling, adding, mixing, and generally just getting our hands dirty.  It was so much fun.  And when we actually tasted our creations, we had to high-five each other, we were that impressed with ourselves. 

As it got closer and closer to 8, the hour when we were supposed to be at our friend’s house, things got more and more hectic in the apartment, especially when we had to figure out how to transport all the ridiculous amounts of food we had.  Finally though, we were all dressed and ready, each with at least one fragrant bag loading us down.  We set out, forming a rather odd parade with our various burdens as we wended our way to the metro – we were strongly aware of more than one stare directed our way while in the metro cars as people vaguely pondered what in the world four people were doing with all those lumpy-looking bags. 

We arrived safely, with all our dishes intact, and added them to two roast chickens (turkeys are a little hard to find), sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and a second kind of stuffing all crammed between 10 zebra-esque plates and Valentine flamingo napkins (ok, so there wasn’t much of any Thanksgiving décor going on).  We all sat down together to this fabulous meal, five Americans, one Frenchman, one English girl, one German, and two Italians, said grace, and dug in.

What could be better than good food with great people?
Man oh man, was it amazing.  The second stuffing had a rich rosemary flavor, ours was slightly sweet and went really well with the gravy, which was full of deliciously browned chicken and onions and gently sweet white wine.  The mashed potatoes were also an excellent creamy addition to the mix (I’m a fan of mixing…), and the sweet potatoes were basically like sweet potato pie without the crust, with candied walnuts on top to die for.  The green bean casserole was a general hit with its soupy cheesy wonder, and the chickens got kind of shoved into corners and forgotten in the general rush for the other food.  Silence reigned intermittently as we all savored every morsel on our plates, conversations flaring up first on one side then in the other corner of the table, dying down quickly enough as another mouthful was loaded onto the fork.  We had to slow down the eating though, as we had to wait for a little space to open back up in our happy stomachs, so conversations started to actually take on life and survive.  Soon, we were all sitting back in our chairs under the low-hanging light fixture with all the signs of a well-fought culinary battle lying before us on the table.  We talked for an hour or so, sharing life and good times.  After a while, some dishes were washed, and some space was cleared in the war-torn kitchen to make mulled wine.

It was a very crowded kitchen indeed
Mulled wine!!!
Soon enough, we were breaking out the pies to go with the last little bit of the mulled wine, taking great pleasure in how creamy the pumpkin one came out and how extremely apply the apple (it was deep-dish, after all).   Around 1 am, officially replete with festive food and fellowship, our apartment gathered up our remnants and headed back home by metro, our return trip very much less full of energy and excitement and very much more like a happily tired trudge. 

Of course, Thanksgiving doesn’t end with midnight on Thursday.  No.  There are all those lovely leftovers to eat now!  Thus, Friday morning, we breakfasted on apple pie (hey, it’s a fruit!) and pumpkin pie (vegetable!).  And for dinner, we feasted on the beautiful tortilla española and roasted green bell peppers our neighbor made for us out of her amazing generosity and kindness to go with our Thanksgiving dinner but for which there was absolutely no room to eat the night before.  And there are still more leftovers!!!  Wow, I’m looking forward to eating stuffing tomorrow…

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