Cranberry sauce and a Thanksgiving menu

Who wouldn’t love a holiday whose sole purpose is to share a meal? As a French woman I’ve always wondered why the French didn’t come up with that idea.

I started making Thanksgiving dinners long before I moved to the United States. The custom began with my mother, who is American (in a somewhat roundabout way), and though I cannot remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving every year as a family, I certainly picked up the tradition when I left home, and have celebrated, if not hosted it consistently since.

My first endeavor involved roasting a chicken with wild rice stuffing in a tiny countertop oven in a small Parisian studio apartment. Later, in Germany, turkeys replaced chickens as the dinner parties became larger to fit the size of the beautiful old apartments students could afford in Berlin in the 1990s (I haven’t lived in such a big apartment since!). I discovered that KaDeWe was the only store in the city to carry (frozen) turkeys in November.

Since I moved to New York I have expanded on and modified recipes, and refined a menu that to me is traditional, though it isn’t exactly, in spite of the turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. On Thursday I will make the dishes I have honed in recent years. In the future I am sure some things will change.

2010 Thanksgiving menu

Pumpkin leek soup

Heritage turkey with apple chestnut stuffing

Sautéed hen of the woods and king trumpet mushrooms

Mashed celeriac with parsley

Cranberry sauce (recipe below)

Pumpkin pie

And other desserts brought by the guests


Cranberry sauce

There is no possible excuse for buying cranberry sauce it’s so ridiculously easy to make. I usually do it the weekend before Thanksgiving.


3 x 12 0z (340g) bags* cranberries

3 cups (750ml) water

2 cups (450g)  sugar

Zest of 2 untreated lemons

1 Tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)


Place the cranberries in a large bowl, fill with water and toss to wash. If you are obsessive as I am, check through the cranberries one handful at a time to sort out the soft, discolored ones, placing the good cranberries in a colander as you go. (This is not exactly necessary, but I love the ritual and the feel of the cranberries through my fingers… Otherwise just strain the berries through a colander.)

In a medium saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add cranberries and lemon zest, mix and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped. Remove from heat and mix in some Grand Marnier if desired.

Once cool, transfer to a jar or bowl and refrigerate (if you make the cranberry sauce a while in advance, sterilize the jars in boiling water, pour in cranberry sauce while hot, and seal tightly).

*For some reason, cranberries are practically always sold in 12 oz bags, so I started using that as the reference.

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4 Responses to “Cranberry sauce and a Thanksgiving menu”

  1. Karamel Says:

    N’oublions pas un Bonvin pour accompagner…
    Merci pour la recette

  2. Mary Gorman Says:

    Thanks for the recipe inspiration Valerie. Normally I don’t make any cranberry sauce as neither Joe nor I particularly care for like it. But as some of our guests probably will I decided to follow your recipe. Well more or less – I used one lemon zest and one clementine zest and instead of Gran Marnier (had none) I added a spoon of Rutherglen Brown Muscat. It is still warm but tastes quite yummy.

    • valerie Says:

      Excellent! I have used orange zest, and I’ve been meaning to try grapefruit, but clementine sounds like a very good idea, too. Let me know if it manages to reconcile you with cranberry sauce… (And if your guests don’t finish it on Thursday, it’s also quite good with plain yogurt.)

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