Home Away From Home: Thanksgiving in Dubai and Tel Aviv
Kerem House, a center for community and cultural activity, offers a fun and delicious Thanksgiving experience to new immigrants and other members of Tel Aviv's international community. (Courtesy Kerem House)

Home Away From Home: Thanksgiving in Dubai and Tel Aviv

Four large turkeys with a combined weight of 66 pounds will be waiting for 60 guests in Kerem House in Tel Aviv on Thursday evening for a large Thanksgiving celebration.

In Dubai, at the American-inspired CMP Bar & Grill restaurant, over 100 people are expected during the two nights Thanksgiving will be celebrated. It will be the fourth Thanksgiving celebration at the restaurant.

Sahil Anand, co-founder of CMP, has been living in Dubai for 25 years, more than he has lived in his native India. His business partner, German national John Ide and head chef Ryan Bernardo, from the Philippines, make up the multicultural team behind the American establishment and serve as a microcosm of Dubai.

“Dubai is very American,” said Anand. “Celebrating Thanksgiving is part of our restaurant’s identity.”

Jason Kipp, who moved to Israel from Minnesota in the United States 12 years ago. He established Kerem House three years ago. Together with his business partners, they defined the place as a “hospitality house for community and cultural activity.” Cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, the house hosted various activities, from workshops to traditional Jewish Shabbat dinners.

“The house is part of a greater Tel Aviv international traditional community,” said Kipp. “Most of the people are immigrants between the ages of 20 and 40.”

For Anand, CMP is about bridging a gap for people wanting a good, yet affordable steak with an American feel.

“You could either eat a steak at a big franchise or a fancy steakhouse in a five-star hotel,” said Anand. “Our goal was to create a middle ground.”

Thanksgiving has been celebrated at CMP since its inauguration at the end of 2018.

This year, due to space constrictions, Kerem House is expecting 60 participants for a Thanksgiving buffet dinner that will include the traditional holiday dishes. It is the third one the house is hosting.

A buffet of traditional dishes is served for Thanksgiving 2021 at Kerem House in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy Kerem House)

“It is a very important annual event on our calendar. A lot of people rely on our event to have a Thanksgiving. It is a great event that has a nice theme to it. It is an important event for many Americans to attend.”

Thanksgiving at Keren House has an Israeli twist – a singalong in which classic American songs are sung by the audience, including the American national anthem.

Thanksgiving at Kerem House features an Israeli-style singalong in which classic American songs are sung by the audience. (Courtesy Kerem House)

“We took this from our regular Shabbat dinners in which there is a lot of communal singing and participation. That is something that is not like a traditional American Thanksgiving which usually has fewer participants. It works well with large groups.”

At the CMP Bar & Grill, the chef has decided to stick with the traditional dishes. In the past, Middle Eastern condiments such as duqqa, a mixture of herbs, nuts, and spices, were used.

“This year we decided to stay away from that,” said Anand. “People wanted home and just offer a true, traditional Thanksgiving. There are a few tweaks but we try to keep it as traditional as possible.”

“People feel very far away from home,” said Kipp. “This is one of those things that people connect to – they always had a turkey and cranberry sauce. It is a comfort element that reminds people of home.”

The meal at CMP is a seated one. People can also order a whole turkey with all the trimmings to take away and host a dinner at home. Between takeaway orders and in-house reservations, 20 turkeys will be used in the restaurant.

CMP offers both a seated meal and takeaway dinners, including a whole turkey with all the trimmings. (Courtesy CMP)

Dubai’s large expat community comprises most of the Emirati city’s population.

“We are all expats, we are all from abroad and we are a mix of cultures,” said Anand. “People who are not necessarily American but were educated there, celebrate Thanksgiving.”

According to Anand, there are non-expats who join the celebration.

“A lot of non-Americans have heard of Thanksgiving and want to try an authentic celebration from the comfort of Tel Aviv,” said Kipp.

In addition to the traditional dishes, the Dubai establishment incorporates British culture into the celebration with a beef Wellington dish. It is made with plant-based Impossible beef and called the “Impossible Wellington.”

“This is for someone who really wants to pardon the turkey,” said Anand.

CMP’s “Impossible Wellington” is a beef Wellington made with plant-based Impossible beef. (Courtesy CMP)

“Despite being a steakhouse, I’m an advocate for being more sustainable when it comes to farming and animals,” he added.

At Kerem house, the food is provided by an Israeli kosher caterer.

For a Thanksgiving away from home, it is still possible to get the holiday vibe, be it in Tel Aviv or Dubai.

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For dessert at CMP, butternut squash and toasted meringue pie will be offered to the guests. For those wishing for a twist on the classic pumpkin pie, here is the recipe:

Ingredients

Filling

  • Firmly packed light brown sugar 100 gms
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • Ground ginger 2 gms
  • Vanilla extract 15 gms
  • Ground cinnamon 1.5 gms
  • Kosher salt 1.5 gms
  • Smoked paprika 1gm
  • Roasted butternut squash purée 300 gms
  • Heavy whipping cream 180 gms

Crust

  • Digestive biscuits 200 gms
  • White sugar 25 gms
  • Unsalted Butter 85 gms
  • Toasted Meringue
  • Egg white 90 gms
  • Caster sugar 125 gms
  • Cream of tartare 2 gms

Method

Crust

  1. Add the biscuits to a food processor, fitted with an S blade. Pulse until broken down. The consistency should be like a coarse sand
  2. Melt butter and stream in, pulse again until the crumbs start to come together, resembling wet sand
  3. Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie plate. Press hard to compact. You can use a glass to press the bottom, but use your fingers to press the sides
  4. To bake the crust: Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake crust for 5 minutes, until it just starts to brown. Cool completely before filling

Filling

  1. To make butternut squash purée, cut peel and deseed a butternut squash. Apply with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in a 180°C oven until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool completely. Scrape out pulp. Transfer pulp to the work bowl of a food processor; process on high until puréed. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and paprika. Add squash purée, and whisk until well combined. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in cream until well combined. Transfer mixture to prepared crust.
  3. Bake at 170°C until edges are set and center is still slightly jiggly, 30 to 45 minutes, covering crust with foil after 20 minutes of baking to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Garnish with meringue and toast

Meringue

Beat egg whites in medium bowl with electric mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until sugar is dissolved and stiff, glossy peaks form. Spread over pie filling in decorative swirls and toast with a torch.

CMP’s butternut squash and toasted meringue pie. (Courtesy CMP)

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