Thanksgiving with Karen in Krakow

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I grew up in the United States in a Polish home. My parents emigrated to the US one year before I was born. My mother Barbara made a point to celebrate all Polish holidays and even Christmas and Easter were celebrated with Polish traditions. The only holiday that we celebrated that was American was Thanksgiving. My mother also made this a very special celebration, with all the traditional foods, and inviting all of our family and friends over. I remember seeing the enormous turkey she would get brining in the bathtub the day before Thanksgiving. And then on Thanksgiving Day smelling the amazing aromas coming from the kitchen. As I got older, my job was to make the pies for dessert.

Even after I moved away from my parents' home, I loved coming home for Thanksgiving, it was one of my favorite meals, not to mention getting to spend time with loved ones. I learned from my mother how to make so many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods - sweet potato casserole, brussel sprouts with bacon, honey buttered carrots, stuffing, and the most amazing, juicy, tender turkey.

When I moved to Krakow, Poland five years ago, I wanted to keep some sort of Thanksgiving tradition alive with me here. Unlike in the US, finding a frozen turkey in the grocery store wasn't easy here. But I discovered I could order a fresh turkey from one of the vendors in Stary Kleparz and that was an amazing discovery because the turkey was so amazingly delicious. I also learned how to make pumpkin pie from a fresh roasted pumpkin which also tastes entirely better than from the canned pumpkin in the US.

This year I will be hosting my 4th Thanksgiving dinner in Krakow. And this year, I am lucky enough to have my mother visiting me during this time and having her help to make the dinner great! In the past three years I have had many people - tourists, students, expats, Poles who never experienced Thanksgiving before - come and share in this holiday. I've made many friends through this experience. I am looking forward to making many more this year. 

One of the side dishes that seems to disappear first is my sweet potato casserole. Sweet things, such as cranberry sauce and this casserole seem to go very nicely with turkey. My secret to a tender and moist turkey is to brine it in a mixture of half pineapple juice and half chicken broth for at least 24 hours. My recipe for sweet potato casserole is as follows -

6 sweet potatoes
100 grams of butter
250 grams of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of ginger
the zest of one orange
salt and pepper to taste
mini marshmallows

Peel and boil the sweet potatoes in salted water until they are fork tender. Put the boiled sweet potatoes through a ricer (this is important to keep out the fibrous strands found in the sweet potatoes). Add all of the ingredients other than the marshmallows and mix well. Put the mixture into a oven safe dish and put the marshmallows on top covering the entire mixture well. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes - until the marshmallows have melted and start to brown. Serve right away while still hot.

I will be making this along with other American Thanksgiving traditional dishes. I hope to have you join me and my guests to celebrate this holiday of being thankful for the things we have.