Just as Americans celebrate with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, people in different countries serve their own national dishes at holiday time. Here are a few of the more distinctive ones.
Finnish Rutabaga Casserole (Länttulaatikko)
Due to Finland's far northern location, its growing season is short. But sturdy root vegetables have been cultivated for centuries, and the rutabaga, in particular, is Finland's most ubiquitous and important vegetable. Sari Pylkkänen, head chef at the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations, says that rutabaga casserole is a mainstay of the Christmas table: "All Finns have it for Christmas. It has a sweet taste, and its aroma is essential for a Finnish Christmas. Homemade casseroles are Finnish cuisine at its best — nutritious, easy to prepare, and economical."
2 large rutabagas, about 3 1/2 pounds, scrubbed and peeled
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs, plus more for topping
1/3 cup dark corn syrup or molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt, to taste
1. Boil the rutabagas in lightly salted water until soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain, keeping the cooking liquid. Mash the rutabagas until smooth.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole or baking dish.
3. Combine the cream, bread crumbs, corn syrup, egg, ginger, pepper, nutmeg, and salt to taste and stir into the rutabagas. Add cooking liquid as needed for a loose, soft consistency.
4. Turn the mixture into the casserole dish. Press a pattern on top with a fork, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. Dot with butter.
5. Bake uncovered until heated through and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Serve hot.