An American Thanksgiving in Paris

I have rich memories of Thanksgivings celebrated through the years, but one of my favorites is the year my husband, Randy, and I celebrated with our young sons in our Paris apartment. Living in Europe as Thanksgiving approaches is an interesting experience for an American. I’ve always loved the appearance of pilgrim statues, turkey platters, and greeting cards with heart-tugging messages in our stores each November, but there I was, living in the City of Lights, and there wasn’t a pilgrim to be found. What’s more, Randy had to work that day, because France hadn’t a clue this was one of the most meaningful holidays of the year!

Determined our family would celebrate the occasion with as much tradition as possible, I set out to locate all the ingredients. Finding canned cranberries and pumpkin wasn’t too difficult, though both cost an arm and a leg, but the turkey proved a bit more problematic. In early November, I visited my butcher Monsieur Durand in his shop around the corner. Using my somewhat limited French, I did my best to explain the significance of Thanksgiving and why a turkey was so important.

Most of his daily sales consisted of a thin slice of this or two pieces of that, so when I requested an entire turkey, he smiled broadly and assured me he’d do his best to locate one in time. Two days before Thanksgiving, the turkey arrived and Monsieur Durand proudly held it up. There it was in all its glory – head, neck, body, and feet. This was no frozen, processed American bird made pretty for tentative home cooks. I replied, “Oui monsieur, mais pas de tête et pas de pied!” Translation: “Yes sir, but no head and no feet!” The turkey went home with its neck intact – that was a surprise – but I didn’t care.

Hardly a year goes by that I don’t think about that $50 turkey when I buy our Thanksgiving bird at bargain-basement prices. Nowadays, my focus tends to be on tasty side dishes and desserts guaranteed to tempt even when guests protest they’re too full. One of my favorite desserts is Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake – a recipe I developed for my Thanksgiving television special, celebrating its 10th anniversary on national TV this November. For Holiday inspiration, I invite you to tune into A Home for Christy Rost: Thanksgiving this November on KERA Create channel 13.3.

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Crust Ingredients:
1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
(8-10 whole crackers)
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
9-inch springform pan

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Stir until the crumbs are moistened and press the mixture with your fingers onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes, remove it from the oven, and set it aside to cool completely.

Filling Ingredients
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat softened cream cheese and sugar at medium speed just until they are blended. Add flour and mix briefly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until they are blended, and stir in vanilla.

Pour all but 1 cup of the filling into the springform pan and set the pan aside. To the remaining filling, add pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, and beat just until it is smooth. Spoon dollops of the pumpkin mixture onto the cheesecake filling and use a knife to gently swirl it through the filling.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes until the sides are puffed and the center is almost set. To help prevent cracks, do not open the oven during baking. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, run a sharp knife around the edge, and set it aside to cool. Release the outer band, remove it, and chill the cheesecake 1 to 2 hours. Slide a metal spatula under the crust and transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate. Cover loosely with foil and chill until ready to serve.

Yield: 1 -9-inch cheesecake

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Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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