I love the Thanksgiving holiday season. When we left France and moved to the United States, I completely embraced this American tradition. Every year my kids become more enthusiastic about everything related to Thanksgiving and we never skip the roasted turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce ritual. However, since we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in France, my husband and I can’t really draw on memories about a specific Thanksgiving dish or recreate childhood favorites from past family gatherings. So every year I try to be a little creative and use some “French or exotic twist” for the side dishes and desserts that I am making (adding cranberries to a chocolate, pear, and almond crisp) or use my mother’s classic dishes: Potato-cauliflower and Gruyère gratin, or garlic and crème fraiche mashed potatoes as close stand-ins for the classic American dishes. One thing for sure is that I want my kids to have the best food memories about our Thanksgiving dinners.
What I like about Thanksgiving is that it’s a long day of leisurely cooking with a great deal of anticipation since the meal is served late during the day. While guests and family are lingering and enjoying the long day, my major concern is how to keep them happy while the turkey is roasting and the soup is simmering. The answer? Finger foods. These little bite-size foods are perfect for snacking on and enjoying with drinks during the hours before dinner is served.
I’m a big fan of finger foods and they are nearly always available in my house: for my kids’ lunchboxes (a whole chapter is devoted to finger foods in my latest cookbook Cooking with Trader Joe’s: Pack A Lunch!), during drinks or “apero” with friends, on road trips, and even for Sunday brunch! Adults and kids alike, everybody loves finger foods.
The following two recipes are from my Pack A Lunch cookbook and are perfect for cocktail parties, potluck parties, or as appetizers at any gathering.
The “Ham and Cheese Croissants” won’t last long since both kids and adults love them. Using Trader Joe’s crescent rolls, they’re an adaptation of a very simple and popular French dish, widely used to recycle unsold or stale croissants. You can also add cream cheese inside the roll-ups for a nice velvety texture. To convert to a vegetarian dish, simply omit the ham.
“Pear and Brie Turnovers” are always a big hit with adults as the perfect pairing with wines and drinks. These simple savory-sweet turnovers can do double duty as an appetizer or even a dessert. The sweetness of the pears is nicely balanced by the creamy Brie. For stronger flavors use goat or feta cheese — the tangy cheese will be a wonderful contrast to the pear. Brush the turnovers with a bit of egg-wash right before baking to make the crust nice and golden.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope it is full of love, family, friends and delicious, healthy meals!