Thanksgiving dinner on the Soviet diet

Mashed potatoes, cranberry mousse and fried turkey is the best way to serve Thanksgiving dinner in Soviet Diet style. Source: Anna Kharzeeva

Mashed potatoes, cranberry mousse and fried turkey is the best way to serve Thanksgiving dinner in Soviet Diet style. Source: Anna Kharzeeva

Although turkey wasn’t common in the Soviet Union, the Book of Healthy and Tasty Food has a recipe for it – and the other parts of a traditional Thanksgiving feast.

By the end of November, Russians are slowly getting excited about the biggest holiday of the year – New Year’s Eve. It’s the Soviet substitute for Christmas, which in Russian Orthodoxy is marked on Jan. 7 and not widely celebrated. In Moscow, New Year trees are being set up, people are starting to shop for presents and everyone is dreaming of the main dish on the New Year table  - Olivier salad. No one is thinking about turkey and pumpkin pie.

I don’t think many Russians know much about Thanksgiving. They may be aware that it exists, but if you asked anyone on the street if the fourth Thursday in November is different from any other day in the United States, I doubt they would have an answer. I know I didn’t have an answer until about four years ago, when a Canadian/Australian couple invited my husband and me over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Now I remember, and if you ask me what’s special about this day in late November (or in October, in the case of Canadian Thanksgiving), I would say that it is special because there is turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie… and I don’t have to cook any of it! I love Thanksgiving dinner – my Australian friend is a spectacular cook and I remember crawling out from under the dinner table and plopping myself on the sofa, wondering if I had indeed had enough – or could I maybe fit just one more heavenly slice in?

Since then I’ve been very lucky to get to go to two more Thanksgiving dinners with a bunch of Americans who were all away from home, gathered together in a Moscow apartment, and having a wonderful time.

This year I thought I’d give it a go myself. On the downside, I had to make my own dinner, but on the plus side, I found some recipes in the Book that worked really well. There was just one turkey recipe, so that choice was easy – it says it should be served with baked apples, which is a great idea. I also used a cranberry sauce dessert recipe with less sugar and, of course, mashed potatoes. I didn’t have an American around to test it on, but my Australian husband and I thought it was an appropriate Soviet Thanksgiving dinner.

I asked my grandmother if she knew much about Thanksgiving and the food that’s usually served: “Thanksgiving? American Thanksgiving? I know of it, but don’t know anything about it. I think they eat turkey, a whole one. In the Soviet times I’d never even heard of turkey – we certainly never cooked it. It’s surprising there’s a turkey recipe in the book. What does it say? As for mashed potatoes – I always loved it, and it’s very handy as you can always use to make a zapekanka or patties.”

I know she would love a real Thanksgiving dinner – she enjoys a cowberry (similar to cranberry) sauce with meat, and now that the Soviet Union no longer exists, I’m glad she’ll have the chance to. Any Americans in Moscow willing to invite a granddaughter-grandmother duo over for the next Thanksgiving? We’ll bring the Soviet champagne.

Cranberry mousse with semolina

The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 315. Click to enlarge the image

Place the washed, sorted-out cranberries into a pan and crush them with a wooden pestle, adding a third of a glass of boiled water and sieving them through gauze. The juice should be kept cool.


For one glass of cranberries - one glass of sugar and three tablespoons of semolina

The crushed berries should be boiled for five minutes in three glasses of water, strained and the decoction should then be used to cook the semolina. Pour and stir the semolina gradually into the boiling decoction.

After 20 minutes of slow boiling, pour in the sugar, let the mass boil and remove from the burner. Pour the juice into the cooked mass and whip it until obtaining a thick foam. When the mass has increased twice in volume, pour it into containers and place them in a cold spot. The cranberry mousse can be served with cold milk.

Mashed potatoes

The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 201. Click to enlarge the image

Boil the peeled and washed potatoes, drain the water and keep the pan with the potatoes on a small flame or in the oven so that the remaining water evaporates.


For one kilogram of potatoes - one glass of milk and two tablespoons of butter

Afterwards, without letting the potatoes cool, rub them through a sieve or crush them with a wooden pestle, add the butter and salt and, while stirring, gradually add the hot milk. Mashed potatoes are served individually or as a side dish to ham, tongue, cutlets, sausages and other meat dishes.

Fried turkey:

The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 190. Click to enlarge the image

Salt the prepared turkey on all sides, place it on a pan with its back up, pour on the melted butter, add half a glass of water and let it bake in a medium-heated oven. While baking, use a spoon to pour the juice formed around it onto the turkey and turn it so that it browns on all sides (the turkey needs to be baked anywhere from one to two and a half hours, depending on its size).

When finished baking, remove the turkey, pour out the fat, add a glass of meat broth or water, boil and sieve.

When the turkey is not prepared in its entirety but in halves, the parts must be fried after the baking process. The turkey must be served on a warm platter divided into two halves, which should then be divided into 4-8 pieces. Pour the juice over the turkey and decorate it with parsley shoots or salad leaves. Baked apples or fried potatoes can be served on the side. Serve the green salad, cucumbers and marinated fruits and berries separately.

Baked apples with preserves:

The recipe from the Soviet Cook Book, page 323. Click to enlarge the image

Wash the apples with cold water, remove their cores (without cutting through them), pin the peels, fill the apples with preserves and place them on a pan or tray. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of water and place the pan in an oven with medium temperature for 15-20 minutes. As soon as the apples become soft, they must be removed, cooled and placed onto a platter or plate. Then pour the syrup formed in the pan onto the apples.


For 10 apples - half a glass of preserves

For the stuffing it is best to use wild strawberry, strawberry, blackcurrant or cherry (without pits) preserves. Add crushed crackers, biscuit crumbs, crushed almonds or finely chopped walnuts to the preserves selected for the stuffing.

Baked apples with sugar are prepared in the same way as apples with preserves, with the only exception being that instead of the preserves the apples are stuffed with sugar.


Read more: Pumpkin pancakes – a circle of sunshine on a gray fall day>>>

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