Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So you may think it is easy to find turkey in Turkey, but you would be sadly mistaken.

Generally, there’s sliced smokey turkey meat at the deli and sometimes a turkey breast or other random parts in the meat section at my local supermarket or butcher here in Istanbul.

But in order to find a whole turkey in this city of 15 million people you basically have to know somebody who knows somebody!

The number one Thanksgiving challenge is finding a whole turkey in Turkey. (Turks serve whole turkeys to celebrate the new year, so turkeys aren’t usually available until the end of December.)

I thought I had one ordered through a company a friend has used to get her turkey. It was supposed to arrive on Tuesday, but it didn’t. Then, I was told Wednesday. Still no turkey by 5 p.m. today.

I was anxious and trying not to freak out. The turkey is THE star of a Thanksgiving meal!

Hopefully, tomorrow’s delivery. Inshallah!

Well, when I told my husband this, he wasn’t happy either. He asked one of his Turkish co-workers if she knew someone or somewhere we could still get a whole turkey for tomorrow. She called the company I’ve been dealing with and talked to several people. The new plan is that the turkey will be delivered tomorrow to our apartment.

Today, I just wish I had some of the conveniences that are available in the U.S.

Other challenges:

2. No canned pumpkin. Buy a kilo of the beautiful balkabak at your local pazar. Place the balkabak in a plastic roasting bag. Roast at 350 F/175 C for 30-40 minutes, or until softened. When cool enough to touch, puree the pumpkin smooth in a food processor. Now, you are ready to make your own pumpkin custard to fill a tart or pie.

3. No fried onions. I love fried onions on top of a cheesy green bean casserole! Today, I sliced a bunch of shallots very thinly and tossed in flour, salt and ground black pepper. Then, I fried the shallots in a bit of sunflower oil until golden brown. Perfect!
Make your own fried onions!
4. Fresh or frozen cranberries aren’t available. However, you can find plenty of plump dried cranberries at your pazar or kuruyemis. I used these to make an easy cranberry sauce/compote in about 20 minutes this afternoon. See my recipe below.

5. No refrigerated Pillsbury dinner rolls. The bakeries here bake all kinds of delicious breads. But if you want Pillsbury-like dinner rolls, you have to make them yourself, which is what I did today. 32 dinner rolls, well minus one that I sampled, are ready to go for tomorrow.

6. No canned or frozen French green beans. Today, I julienned 1.5 kilos of fresh green beans I bought at the Beşiktaş pazar. This took me 1 hour. Then, I cooked the green beans in a pot filled with about 2 inches of water and salt for about 20 minutes until they were tender. (I called my friend Claudia of A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, for advice on how to best to cook these Turkish green beans.) Tomorrow, I will make a cheese sauce from scratch, mix with the green beans and then roast in a casserole dish until bubbly and golden. Garnish with the fried onions.
This huge bowl of green beans should yield two casserole dishes.
7. Stuffing is not sold in a box or bag here. Go to your local bakery and buy 2 loaves of bread. Dice the bread into ½-inch cubes. Place the bread on a baking sheet in a single layer at 250 F/125 C for about 30 minutes. Now, you have dried bread that can be used to make homemade stuffing tomorrow.

8. Pecans are super expensive! Instead of the 60+ TL/kilo for pecans, I bought a 22 TL/kilo bag of walnuts at the pazar. I baked a beautiful, rich walnut tart; and, honestly, I can’t tell the difference in flavor. (Thanks to my British friend for supplying me with the Golden Syrup for the tart.)
I think only a true Southerner would know this tart is made with walnuts instead of pecans!
Drizzle melted chocolate on top for extra indulgence!
9. Fresh sage and celery are difficult to find. My local supermarkets in the Beşiktaş area don’t carry these items. I finally found the fresh sage and bunches of celery at the MacroCenter in the Akmerkez Mall in Etiler. These ingredients are necessary to make a proper Thanksgiving stuffing.

10. Ovens are small. My oven measures a measly 19” x 14” x 14.” This means once the turkey is placed in the oven, absolutely nothing else will fit inside there. That means I must roast/bake everything in advance and reheat after I take out the turkey. On Monday, I baked my walnut tart and made more tart dough. Today, I baked two pumpkin tarts. I have to stay on a schedule in order to get everything done in time.

Despite all these challenges, I think I will have a successful Thanksgiving dinner with my husband and friends here in Istanbul tomorrow night. This kind of meal involves a ton of work, but it’s a small way to show my thanks to friends who have shown me so much in the past year and a half.

Happy Thanksgiving wherever you may be!
20-Minute Dried Cranberry Sauce
Serves: 10-12+ people

3 cups dried cranberries
6 oz. fresh pomegranate juice
6 oz. fresh orange juice
1 ea. zest of an orange
2 ea. cinnamon sticks
pinch salt
1 T. cornstarch mixed with enough water to make a paste

In a medium sized pot, place all the ingredients, except the cornstarch, cover with a lid and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Pour the cornstarch into the pot along the side while whisking. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add a bit more juice or water to adjust the consistency of your sauce.

For a smoother sauce, use a stick blender and puree, after removing the cinnamon stick and orange zest.

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Julia said...

Have a great Thanksgiving. Looks like you've done an amazing job despite your challenges. Hope your turkey arrives! :)

Joanne Yildirim said...

Good job Joy!
For the stuffing bread crumbs, you can find packs of "Etimeks" in snacks section of the grocery store (small packs of cookies & crackers). It looks like a tiny loaf of dried bread. (I guess it's eaten as a diet snack.) I use these for making stuffing here.

Rym said...

Everything looks wonderfull and will taste just delicious! fingers crossed for the Turkey! sorry will miss it.
Happy Thanksgiving!

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i sure hope your turkey arrives! i could have sent you a dozen or so! i always love the challenge of cooking abroad. have a great thanksgiving!

Cuisine de Provence said...

Well done and congratulations on your improvisational skills! And Happy Thanksgiving!

jason @ corfu villa said...

No turkey in turkey? Shame. There's lots of Grease in Greece though!

Joy said...

The turkey arrived at 11:30 a.m. yesterday. Just enough time to rub it down with an herbed butter and get it roasting. Meal turned out great!

Thanks for the other tips! And happy holidays to everyone!

I'll be posting photos soon!

Unknown said...

Hi Joy! Million dollar question: did the turkey arrive in time?? Gosh, your feast was so much work for you compared with what you're used to. I have copied down yr recipe for the cranberry sauce for Christmas :). Your tart looks just amazing! I'm sure you had a really great meal.

Melissa said...

Holy cow I can't believe all you did and made!!! You're amazing!!!

The Turkish Life said...

I've got a reliable tavukçu in the Balık Pazarı off İstiklal who's never failed to get me a delicious turkey, on time, four years running now. He sells both the big Bolca turkeys (mine was 10 kilos this year too) and small, but very tasty "köy hindisi." Glad everything worked out well for you in the end!

Joy said...

@ The Turkish Life, I definitely need to get in touch with you then regarding your tavukçu for next year, or when I need another hindi. =) Hope you had a good Thanksgiving too!

Sara Louise said...

It's difficult to get a turkey for Thanksgiving in France too. I'd have to order it a couple of weeks in advance and would come with head, feathers and feet still attached. I'll be roasting chicken instead :)