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May 4, 2008 12:21 AM

Help please? Winter Thanksgiving in New Zealand.


I'm having a wintertime Thanksgiving down here in New Zealand, on the 4th Thursday in May (followed by Midwinter Christmas on June 21st- the longest day here.) Most guests come from various areas of America, with a couple of Kiwis, and me the only Brit. A few things are baffling me. French fried onions for instance. From the recipes I've seen, these appear to come out of tins or jars, but I would need to make these from scratch. How do I do that? Green bean casserole recipes also vary- some have tinned mushroom soup, some jars of alfredo dressing, some none of the above. If I make 2 dips, what would be traditional? Pumpkin pie, pecan pie or both? And marshmallows on top of mashed sweet potatoes- really? What have you GOT to have. One site said you HAD to have mashed potatoes- is that right? Are roast potatoes not so traditional?

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  1. One thing to remember is that there are many different Thanksgiving traditions in the USA, which is after all, quite a large place. Mashed potatoes are generally traditional, along with roast turkey, stuffing (or dressing), and sweet potatoes. Many folks eat the awful concoction with marshmallows (obviously, not I'm not one of them!). I make my own scratch version of the traditional green bean cassarole by steaming green beans, then making a sauce from mushrooms, a bit of minced garlic, butter, flour, cream, and chicken stock. I then carmelize onions in butter and stir those in, then bake in a cassarole until hot. I don't know that one could approximize the canned fried onions, which are very crispy. Good luck!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Niki in Dayton

      I don't make the green bean casserole, but I think the OP would have to deep fry the onions some how - maybe coated w/ seasoned flour? Here's an old thread on making them:

      I do think mashed potatoes are more traditional than roast potatoes. Pumpkin and pecan pies are both favorites, but we also like mince meat and apple pies at Thanksgiving (I actually usually make a Tarte Tatin instead of apple pie). No yams w/ marshmallows at our house.

      Edit - you might want to wade through some of these threads too:

      1. re: MMRuth

        Will go for mash then, although I am doing a leg of lamb too and might also do a gratin. I'll save the roast potatoes for Midwinter Christmas next month.

        I'd like to get the balance between traditional but not too pretendy cheesy, if you know what I mean. 9 of the 20 guests are from the US and another 4 have lived there- most are Minnesota, Kansas people, a few west coast, two grew up in either Chinese or Korean families- so a bit of a mixed bag.

        1. re: rachelfc

          I think if you're having lamb, you might want to reconsider some of these side dishes. Americans (almost) always have turkey (or tofu turkey) as the main course and that is a bland protein that is can easily be too dry.. Therefore we need lots of butter, cream and sauces and sweet side dishes to compliment the turkey.
          What island are you on? Will it be warm enough to cook outside? We have a new tradition of deep fried turkey that is catching on like crazy. Can you get a turkey or do you just prefer lamb?

      2. re: Niki in Dayton

        Oh good, I'll give the marshmallow thingy a miss then. Sweet potatoes- we call them Kumara here- do you roast them for Thanksgiving? And I will do the green bean thing as you suggest- 6 of the 20 people who are coming don't eat meat so I just won't use the chicken stock. Thanks- think I'll need that luck!

        1. re: Niki in Dayton

          It does seem to have more variables than a British Christmas Dinner, I had thought there was a bit mroe of a set menu than there is although I suppsoe with the various cultures and temparatures througtou the States I shouldn't be surprised.

          Do you serve pumpkin pie and pecan pie cold, hot, warm- and do you serve it with ice cream, yoghurt...?

          1. re: rachelfc

            I think of pumpkin pie as being served at room temp (except I don't like it!) - served with whipped cream? And I don't think I usually see pecan pie served with anything (don't like it either ;-) ). I don't think I've seen either served with ice cream or yogurt.

            In terms of general traditions etc.- I think you are right that there are a lot of variations - but mostly on a theme - for example, families tend to have "their" stuffing/dressing recipes, and often melded families "have" to serve several variation.

            And as someone mention below - cranberry sauce - HOW did we forget that? Any chance of your finding cranberries - even canned, if not fresh?

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Hope you're going to give them all a traditional Brit Christmas dinner next month. Turkey, mince pies, pudding - the full monty.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Harters

              The full monty indeed. They'll have sprouts and chestnuts and they'll like it. Cranberry sauce made from scratch. There'll be sherry, and port and stilton...... No idea where I'll find holly for the pud though! Oh- now I'm getting excited about making the cake and pud and mincemeat... a little time in the kicthen, just Delia Smith and me. Ah, nostalgia...

              Hmm, haven't seen chipolatas here, better check I can get them.... if not, maybe our local butcher would oblige.

              Now, what music will go well with Thanksgiving dinner (well, late lunch)...?

            2. The one thing (besides Turkey!) that I think everyone has is cranberry sauce. Can you get some for your celebration? Also, I think that it is totally cool that you are doing this!

              7 Replies
              1. re: DaisyM

                I'm going to make some, as two friends who love the stuff in jars have never tried homemade. Hopefully they won't like the stuff in jars better!

                1. re: rachelfc

                  You must have replied while I was typing - that's wonderful! Do cranberries grow in NZ (forgive ignorant question)? Do you have a recipe that you like?

                  Some other things that we have (may or may not have been mentioned above) are peas w/ pearl onions and a "relish tray" of various kinds of olives and celery hearts, most of which goes untouched.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    Hiya- not an ignorant question at all- I'm not certain but no, I don't think we grow cranberries here. As in the UK, we get them frozen- possibly we could get fresh but not at this time of year I would think. Frozen is pretty good though. Celery hearts? That would literally be the innermost parts of an ordinary head of celery? I'm keen to offer things to keep the people who ae on time or early as Iknow there'll be stragglers and would guess some people will be there more than an hour before we eat. I don't want them to get too stuffed though.

                    1. re: rachelfc

                      Celery hearts - yes, the innermost tenderest bit. It's one of the few veg I actually prefer tinned to fresh - I can never cook a fresh heart sufficiently tender. Cooking individual ribs - no problem. That said, I wouldnt have thought of them as something to serve along with olives and so on - so maybe something different done with thme in the US


                      1. re: Harters

                        I've never heard of tinned celery hearts here - in the "relish dish" we serve them raw, as individual ribs with the leaves. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but traditional!

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Ah. Raw. Just the thing we have to accompany cheese (apart from putting into salad).

                          This is a good quick recipe for braised celery & carrot (from the dreaded Delia):


                  2. re: rachelfc

                    In my experience, whole berry homemade sauce has won over every guest who has ever tried it. Even the die hard "canned jellied with the ridges" types end up sneaking the real stuff.

                    I make mine with OJ instead of water and cut back the sugar by half, grate some orange zest in after it cools.

                2. It sounds like you are getting great advice. Thanksgiving isn't a set menu but I agree that some components are very traditional (and in my family required).
                  Mashed potatoes
                  Cranberry sauce (homemade is 1000x better than canned and your friend will wonder why they have never made it)
                  Sweet potato dish (usually the marshmallow topped pie w/pineapple and a roasted one like this one from epicurious


                  Soup (I usually make a butternut squash soup from Delia's winter book-given that you have vegetarians it might be something to consider as it is super easy and can be done ahead)
                  Glazed carrots
                  A green vegetable like creamed spinach or spinach gratin
                  Turnips or rutabagas
                  Green bean casserole

                  Pecan pie
                  Apple Pie
                  Pumpkin pie
                  The pecan and apple are served warm with ice cream and the pumpkin is usually room temperature with whipped cream. You could certainly choose one or the other pie.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Super Salad

                    What do you do with the turnips and rutabaga (or swede as we know them here).

                    I'm beginning to get curious- ha- about the marshmallow/pineapple topped sweet ptoatoes. Some thing that odd has to have a reason to be made repeatedly, surely. I note than Nigella has a recipe in Feast... no pineaple though... crushed?? I tink it has to make an appearance. Care to share your recipe for this bizzarre concoction...?

                    Go a recipe above for green bean casserole- the jury is still out on how to make french fried onions though!

                    1. re: rachelfc

                      Last year I made a rutabaga puree w/crispy shallots following this recipe.
                      The one change I follow is to add about 1 T of sugar to the boiling water before you add the rutabaga.

                      As for fried onions: You could probably follow the recipe above for fried shallots to make the fried onions for the green bean casserole (sometimes referred to as Durkee Green bean Casserole-Durkee is the brand of the onions). My shallots were quite similar in texture and consistency (though much tastier) to the retail fried onions.

                      As for the Sweet Potato Pie. Some people love it but in my family it is considered a required and disgusting element. We make it, pick the marshmallows off, dig out the pineapple, and throw it away. One year my mother decided not to make it and we freaked out.

                      My recipe (if you can call it that) is as follows
                      -Any square or rectangle casserole dish (8 x 8, 10 x 8, whatever you have. Not too big b/c as you will undoubtedly have to dispose of most of it.
                      )-2 large cans (probably about 20 oz each) of whole yams or sweet potatoes in heavy syrup. (the heavy syrup is key. They must be tooth achingly sweet).
                      -1 approximately 16 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice (not the minced pineapple, not the slices, the chunks in juice)
                      -1 bag of full sized marshmallows.

                      Preheat oven to 350 or so. Dump the yams into a bowl. Mash with a fork until they have a somewhat uniform consistency. Leave a few chunks. Open and drain the pineapple. Add pineapple to SPs. Mix until distributed. Dump the SPs and pineapple into the pan. Place in the oven for about 15 or minutes until warmed through. Remove from oven and place marshmallows on top. Do NOT pack the marshmallows too close together as they expand greatly when heated. You will likely have some marshmallows left over. Allow to bake until the marshmallows are brown and gooey.

                      Do not eat under any circumstances.

                      Good luck!

                      1. re: Super Salad

                        Oh SS that sounds.... um... wow. I'm lost for words... your family sounds great! We don't have sweet potatoes in cans, syrup or whatver, just ordinary bags of sweet potatoes. I am assuming what you call sweet potatoes is what we call kumara- I don't think what you call yams are the same as what we call yams though- here's a link to a site with a photo of our yams- they aren't what you mean, are they?


                        These are what we call Kumara- same as your sweet potatoes, right?


                        But I'm still going to give it a shot- it'll be something to remember anyway! Wonder if I boil and soak them in syrup that'd be an interesting flavour. I could customise the syrup maybe....

                        Well, this time next week I will be in full panic mode. I guess I'd better start planing a timetable, what i can do ahead etc. Thanks for everything- would be interested to know if our yams and kumara are the same as your yams and sweet potatoes.

                        1. re: rachelfc

                          OK, here's my take on the yam thing. Keep in mind that most of us in the US just call them whatever and are usually botanically incorrect.

                          This website shows what I have been informally (and incorrectly) taught to be true. The one that's orange fleshed I call a yam and the one on the right I call a sweet potato. I don't think we actually get true yams that often in the States.

                          When we talk about sweet potato casseroles for Thanksgiving, we (at least in my part of the Pacific Northwest) use those orange fleshed faux "yams". It would be gross IMHO with white fleshed sweet potatoes.

                          I glazed mine some years back with whiskey, orange juice and brown sugar. It almost made me a convert.

                          1. re: Vetter

                            Ahah. Got it. Your yam is our kumara. Our yams are nothing tlike either of those pictures, they are tiny shiny knobbly things which are usually red or yellow.

                      2. re: rachelfc

                        Alton Brown did a version from scratch, including the onions --


                        If that's too much, let me know, I can drop a can in the mail too you.

                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                          I love that link! Now if someone talks about going to the piggly wiggly for a can of durkees I'll know waht their talking about. We don't have half and half so I shall have to google for an alternative. Thank you so much for your offer to post me some of the onions- I don't think they'd get here in time othrwise I would ceratinly take you up on it, and send you a NZ foodie gift in return.

                          1. re: rachelfc

                            If ever I'm cooking from an American recipe that requires "half and half", I use UK "single" cream. Dunno how authentic that might be but I've never had a recipe fail on me because of its use. That said, I don't often cook such a recipe......

                            Wikipedia says that in the UK we'd call it "half cream" but I have to say I can't recall ever seeing that in the supermarkets.