Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? I love how families gather around the table for food and games, how everyone pitches in in the kitchen or by bringing a dish, and of course, when it comes to the menu, what’s not to love? Gleaming roast turkey, many side dishes, and too many pies and desserts to choose from, all lovingly made by the different members of the family. It’s a holiday that commemorates the one-year survival of some of the first European-Americans in the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. The funny thing is I didn’t grow up celebrating it because there is no equivalent holiday or celebration to Thanksgiving in Argentina! So I thought in this post, I wouldn’t just write about the apple galette, but tell you a bit about how I came to know and love Thanksgiving.
In Argentina, we have Independence Day, Presidents’ Day, Flag Day, and many holidays of historical significance, but we don’t have any holiday that remotely resembles Thanksgiving. This is because Argentina was set up by Spain as part of the River Plate colony and the early settlers had tons of resources and support from Spain, so Argentina’s colonists never had to experience the isolation and lack of resources that early European-American settlers did. Another thing not to take for granted: the River Plate area has much milder weather than the Massachusetts Bay area! Maybe that’s why Thanksgiving really commanded my attention: as a new Minnesotan, I understood how difficult it is to start over in a new place so different from where I grew up as a kid.
Being new arrivals ourselves, my family and I gradually absorbed the significance of Thanksgiving. Each year that we celebrated the holiday deepened our understanding a little bit more. We could totally relate to the courage it took to settle in a new place that has unfamiliar geography and weather, although we certainly have no idea what it’s like to lack things like running water, or internet, or indoor heating. When it comes to weather, Buenos Aires and Minnesota could not be more different. The summers in Buenos Aires are sultry, warm, and very humid, but our winters are as mild as a cool fall day in Minnesota. There have only been two snowfalls in the last 100 years in the city of Buenos Aires, and our idea of dressing up for cold weather means putting on a sweater and a light jacket. We grew up with tropical plants like palm trees, fragrant jasmine, birds of paradise, hibiscus, and banana trees; but when we moved to Minnesota, we encountered a climate and landscape different from anything we had ever experienced. It was very exciting when we saw the bright colors of maple trees in autumn, saw snow for the first time, and experienced our first Thanksgiving.
For our first Thanksgiving in the United States, my mom learned how to make roast turkey. We also made staples we had grown up with, such as mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, but we had to learn how to prepare all the traditional dishes that are classics on the American Thanksgiving table which were completely new to us. For example, there are no cranberries in Argentina, so we had never made cranberry sauce; Argentina has sweet potatoes (batatas) but nothing like the super-sweet sunset-colored yams that grow here; we grew up eating butternut squash, but we had never seen or tried the array of winter squashes, gourds, and pumpkins you can find here in the Midwest adorning the Thanksgiving table or the doorsteps of people’s homes; we don’t have maple trees, so no maple syrup is available; and we don’t have pecan trees, so we had never eaten pecan pie. That first Thanksgiving was truly a revelation! So many incredible new dishes that represented a whole new world to us and our new life in the U.S. It was the beginning of an American palate and I loved it.
Similar to the Pilgrims’ story, as arrivals, we were welcomed by friends and neighbors who gave us many tips about living in Minnesota—things like how to dress for the Minnesotan winter and how to make the most of lakeside fun in the summer. Friendship and helping others are truly wonderful, so we always thought this was a really cool holiday to celebrate. Plus, my family was already used to celebrating different occasions with foods and large family gatherings, so we totally got the concept of a “food coma” over a long weekend. We learned to celebrate Thanksgiving, attenuating the effects of the meal with multiple walks by Lake Harriet to enjoy the last of the outdoors before snow arrived, as well as to get the body moving a bit after the meal.
For this Thanksgiving, the novelty for me is not new flavors but rather learning how to make pie crust. I do enjoy a good slice of apple pie, but for years, I avoided making any kind of pie because I didn’t have anybody in my family to show me how a pie crust gets made and it looked really difficult. Over the past few weeks, I’ve tried three different recipes and finally decided this one was the best and easiest. The pie crust recipe comes together easily, is flaky, and puffs up during the baking process to a beautiful golden brown. I kept things simple, opting for an unstructured, open pie, or galette, which allows me to create a pretty pleating of the crust and leaves all the jeweled beauty of the fruit exposed. I garnished it with red currants and sparkling sugar for a simple yet eye-catching detail.
I hope you and yours will have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And, if you are not in the U.S., you could try hosting an annual celebration of gratitude. It might not have all the historical context that it does in the U.S., but it can have your own significant history and celebrate friendship, gratitude, and an appreciation for the wonderful food that grows in our Earth.
Apple Red Currant Galette
Prep time: 40 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Chill time: 2 hours or overnight
Makes: 8 servings
For the Pie Dough:
- 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 11 ¼ tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup ice water (half ice, half water)
For the Apple Filling:
- 6 apples, cut into thin wedges
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- zest of 2 lemons
- 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamon
- pinch salt
- 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
- ¼ cup frozen red currants, for garnish
- ¼ cup sparkling sugar, for garnish
For the Crust:
- In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Using a pastry cutter, or a couple of forks, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Rub the butter into the flour between your fingertips until the butter is in clumps the size of small peas or blueberries. Do not over-mix! If possible, try and keep your hands cold. If your hands are very warm, they will soften the butter too much. I wash my hands under cold water before starting.
- Create a well in the center of the mixture and add half a cup of the ice water. Stir with your fingers.
- Add the remaining water, 1 tablespoon at a time. You will use about 7 to 7 ½ tablespoons of water. Crusts and doughs are very susceptible to a number of environmental conditions so the most important thing is that if you have added 5 or 6 tablespoons and most of the dough is sticking together and can tolerate a firm squeeze, then go by that rather than by the number of tablespoons.
- Place the dough onto a very lightly floured surface. Gently flatten it into a vertical rectangular shape—that is to say, the narrow side of the rectangle faces you. Gently lift the dough using a scraper under the top third of the dough and fold it toward the center.
- Gently lift the bottom third of the dough with a scraper and fold it over the center to make a trifold, like folding a business letter. The dough might still be crumbly at this point.
- Rotate the dough 180 degrees and repeat 1-2 times.
- Flatten the dough into a disc, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour and a half, or if baking ahead, up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 2 months. While the dough is in the refrigerator, make the filling.
For the Filling:
- Wash the apples and dry them. Cut the apples with the skin on into thin slices of about 1/6 of an inch thickness.
- Place the slices in a bowl and add the lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Toss to coat.
- Add the lemon juice, making sure that all the apples are equally coated with spice and juice.
- Let the filling stand at room temperature until the pie dough is chilled and ready for rolling.
Making and Assembling the Pie
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 15 to 16 inch round, about ¼ inch thick. Make sure that the dough doesn’t crack.
- Transfer the circle onto a parchment-covered baking sheet, or if you prefer, into a large cast-iron skillet like I used.
- Arrange the apple slices in the center of the circle, making sure to leave a 2-inch border free of filling. If you are making it in a skillet, your border will actually be hanging over the edge of the skillet and you can tuck the apples almost all the way to the edge of the pan. You can arrange the apple slices in any way you want. My rustic look had a line of apple slices in the center surrounded by other columns of apples at different angles around it.
- Fold the dough edges over the apples, loosely pleating the edges, and leaving the center uncovered. If you are making this in the skillet, it will be a bit easier because you fold the dough so it does not hang over the edge of the skillet. You could crimp the border if you prefer, rather than pleating it too.
- Using a brush, brush the dough with the beaten egg wash.
- Sprinkle with sparkling sugar over the center and even over the pleated edge.
- Bake at 400° degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until the crust is golden.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional sparkling sugar as desired. Top with fresh red currants.
- Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.