The folks who’ve been following me for a while might remember my writing trip to Austria in 2017. I joined a diverse group of authors, spent a week in a 12th century castle, and ate Thanksgiving dinner in a dining hall that was last furnished four hundred years ago. Oh, and I started and finished the draft of what became The Debt Collectors in that time. Pretty great trip with great people with whom I’m still in touch. The anniversary of that trip is coming up, and I wanted to share a few memories, holiday recipes, and photos since this was all on my mind this morning.
I scheduled my week in the castle over Thanksgiving because that made it easiest to take off nine days to account for the trip and travel. Most in our group were Americans, so we decided to put on our own Thanksgiving. The castle is called Burg Rappottenstein, and you can check out the German website here. It’s an incredible treat, and you should consider a family trip here. Not now, of course, as Austria is in the midst of locking itself down, but, maybe the fall of ’22. Family Thanksgiving in an Austrian castle? Surprisingly affordable!
Tangent: I just recently learned that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, so I’ll try to remember to post holiday recipes earlier next year. Thanks to Walter for trading emails with me on that and other topics!
Quick side note on expense and late fall travel. Lower Austria, where this is located, has pretty mild winters. Temps were in the 50s while I was there. I walked all over Vienna, went to the St. Stephen’s Christmas Market, and ran the roads around the castle every day I stayed there. My flight was $426 roundtrip, 75% of which was taxes. At the time, you could get rooms in the castle for $70/night in November. It’s NOT tourist season, but the country is amazing year-round, the food is incredible, the beers are mostly from regional breweries you cannot buy anywhere else in the world, and your family and spouse would love you for it. There is no downside. Oh, well, just one. I’ll get to that.
Back to Thanksgiving.
We went to THE grocery store in Rappottenstein for supplies. There is one grocer. One baker. Two restaurants next door to each other, and one post office. We walked everywhere when we weren’t writing, which was the bulk of our activity there. I went to the grocer’s meat section and found the biggest bird available. It was wrapped in white plastic shrink-wrap and the label was in German. My phone didn’t work there (sim card problems), so I couldn’t translate it. The size could have made it a large duck or chicken, or a small turkey. We had no idea. Here’s the one downside of rural tourism: few people outside Vienna spoke more than a few words of English. The grocer wasn’t among them. So, we bought the bird confident we could make do with whatever species it turned out to be. Supplies in hand, we returned to the castle. OUR castle, at least for the week.
Once back on Wi-Fi (the place has been updated), I learned we bought a goose. A young goose at that, which to me means small. I dug around the interwebs and found Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Spiced Christmas Goose recipe. I can’t stick to recipes, but I kept myself pretty close to this one. Turned out amazing. The best and only goose I’ve ever had, and I would serve this to anyone coming to visit tomorrow. Loved it.
I also wanted to leave you with a personal recipe from our own kitchen. We like to make crepes with holiday breakfast. It’s one of the things we loved about Paris is the availability of massive Nutella-and-banana crepes every few blocks. My wife has Celiac’s Disease, so she eats gluten-free, which leaves me solely responsible for eating all the street vendor crepes.
We modified this recipe to work with gluten-free flour; that said, you can use the wheat flour of your choice, as well, but I recommend you ensure that whatever flour you use has no gums (xantham, guargum, etc.):
Whip two eggs until they’re a little fluffy and combine 1.5 cups of milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup flour of choice, 1 T canola or avocado oil, and a ¼ tsp sea salt. Mix all the lumps out. The batter should be thin enough to fall off the tines of a fork, but not watery. Thicker batter will produce thicker crepes and threaten to become pancakes. Add a little milk or flour to get the consistency you want.
Pour batter onto a heated skillet. I use 1/3 c measuring cup to portion, and I only make one at a time in a pan.
The key to this is to heat a nonstick pan first over low-med heat. The batter should sizzle when it first hits the pan. As soon as you pour it out, pick the pan up over the heat and tilt one side down so the batter runs down; rotate in a circle to spread the batter across the pan and thin it out. Once bubble appear across it and the crepe releases from the pan, flip it over and brown as desired.
We like to serve them hot off the stove with bananas and peanut butter. The littles like Nutella (me, too, of course). Preserves, jams, etc., all go great with them. If you want to serve a family all at once, throw the finished crepes on a plate with a clean towel over them. You want them to stay hot and moist.
I’ve attached a few photos of the Austria Thanksgiving. Hope you enjoy them. Feel free to share your favorite family recipes, as I’m always looking for new deliciousness. If you try to goose or the crepes, let me know how they turned out. They’ve done well for us and ours, and I hope they bring a measure of warmth and happiness to you and yours. For the Canucks among us, I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful, and that you decide to celebrate the end of November with a spiced roast goose.
Until next time, care care of yourselves and each other. Be safe out there.