As the world prepares for Thanksgiving, a time-honoured celebration of gratitude and togetherness, Luxembourg joins in, blending traditions and tastes in a unique transatlantic culinary collaboration.
As the leaves turn golden and a crisp chill fills the air, people across the United States, Canada and in many other corners of the world prepare to celebrate one of the most cherished holidays: Thanksgiving. This day, steeped in history and rich in tradition, unfolds a tapestry of culinary delights, family gatherings, and a universal message of gratitude.
At its core, Thanksgiving is a holiday that celebrates the bounty of the harvest and the beauty of togetherness. Originating as a harvest festival, it dates back to the early 17th century when the first Pilgrims in Plymouth shared a meal with the Wampanoag Indians. Today, it is a time when families and friends come together to express their gratitude for the blessings of the past year.
A Feast & Traditions
The Thanksgiving meal is a central element of the celebration, showcasing a spread of flavours that have come to define this holiday. The star of the table is the turkey, often roasted to golden perfection and served as the centrepiece. Accompanying it are a variety of side dishes: stuffing infused with herbs and spices, creamy mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and a selection of vegetables like green beans and sweet potatoes. The feast typically concludes with sweet treats, most notably pumpkin pie, a symbol of the season’s harvest.
Beyond the feast, Thanksgiving is rich in traditions. Families often start the day watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a festive event featuring giant balloons, elaborate floats, and musical performances. American football games are another staple of the holiday, with families and friends gathering around the television to cheer on their favourite teams.
Thanksgiving in Luxembourg
The celebration, which originated on the other side of the Atlantic, is beginning to take on a growing importance in Luxembourg, thanks to the expatriates who live here and the American embassy.
Indeed, this year the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg partnered with EHTL (École d’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme du Luxembourg) and American Chef Cathleen Clarity for a private Thanksgiving event in the presence of the United States Ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas M. Barrett. Students of EHTL had the unique opportunity to work alongside Chef Clarity, gaining invaluable insights into the culinary traditions of this unique celebration.
We sat down with the chef Clarity to discuss Thanksgiving, the menu and the traditions that go with it.
Cathleen Clarity, who moved to France in 1986, has had a unique and fascinating career. After starting out in marketing and communications, she was seized by the desire to reinvent herself through cooking: “I was curious and wanted to expand my knowledge. Of course, I’m passionate about cooking, which is essential if you want to become a chef”, she says with a smile. Trained at prestigious culinary schools, she honed her skills alongside eminent chefs, including Hélène Darroze, who has three Michelin stars in London. After opening her own cooking school, she has now made a name for herself on French television and excels as the culinary director for “extreme miaaam” in Paris.
Alongside her culinary career, Cathleen Clarity was invited to write about American gastronomy, a literary journey that allowed her to reconnect with her roots. This adventure culminated in the creation of two cookbooks, highlighting American flavours that are still little-known in Europe. Drawing on her knowledge and expertise in American cuisine, she has joined forces with the EHTL and the American Embassy to bring the tradition of Thanksgiving to Luxembourg.
“Observing the enthusiasm and motivation of the students is truly thrilling, and passing on knowledge is my favourite part of the job,” confides the Chef joyfully. At this Thanksgiving lunch, which focused on culinary diplomacy, she presented a traditional menu, giving the students the opportunity to familiarise themselves with new techniques and tastes, while cooking alongside her.
“Thanksgiving dinner is essentially a time for sharing,” explains the Chef. The menu she has designed begins with cocktails and amuse-bouches, followed by a stuffed turkey and gravy, accompanied by crispy sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh cranberry sauce, and cornbread. The meal concludes with pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Traditionally, all the dishes are served simultaneously, creating an impression of generosity and abundance on the table.
When asked for tips for a successful Thanksgiving meal, Chef Clarity suggests, “Relax, plan carefully and make the preparation a family moment, including your friends and children. That’s real sharing!” To add to these valuable tips, she shares with us her traditional recipe for Stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey from her book “La cuisine américaine familiale et authentique”, ideal for celebrating Thanksgiving at home.
Stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey
To stuff a 4kg turkey, about 12 portions
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 5 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 sweet white onions, chopped
- 600 g good quality sausage meat
- 2 granny smith apples
- 200 g chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 200 g stale sourdough bread
- fine salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 clove garlic
- 20 cl red port wine
- about 20 cl chicken stock
- Sweat the chopped onions and chopped celery in a little oil in a large frying pan. Add the sausage meat and brown. Remove to a large salad bowl.
- Cut the sourdough bread into cubes and add to the bowl.
- Dice the apples with the skin on, chop the roasted hazelnuts and add to the bowl.
- Moisten the mixture with the chicken stock and red port wine. Mix well.
- Chop the sage and strip the leaves from the thyme. Season with salt and pepper and add the thyme and sage.
- Stuff the turkey and place the remaining stuffing in a casserole dish to cook at the same time as the turkey.
- 1 4 kg farmhouse turkey
- 3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 large carrot, cut into chunks
- 70 cl chicken stock
- 125 g melted butter
- salt and pepper
For the sauce:
- 20 g de fécule de maïs
- sel, poivre du moulin
- Preheat the oven to 180°.
- Stuff the turkey and tie it up.
- Place a bed of carrots, celery and onions in a large dish.
- Season the stuffed turkey with salt and pepper and place in the dish on top of the vegetables.
- Pour 70cl of chicken stock into the dish.
- Brush the skin of the turkey with melted butter.
- Roast the turkey for 2 hours at 180°, basting regularly with the cooking juices.
- Reduce the oven to 160° and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes, depending on the weight of the turkey.
- Once cooked, transfer the turkey to a plate and cover with aluminium foil. Leave to rest.
- Strain the cooking juices into a small saucepan.
- Whisk the cornflour with 10 cl of water and pour into the cooking juices.
- Whisk briskly and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a sauceboat.