It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without turkey. But in New York’s East Village, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Momofuku Milk Bar’s Thanksgiving croissant. I first spotted this hot-pocket-esque beauty a few weeks ago when I stopped in the hipster (for lack of a better term) bakery to buy cookies. “It’s one of our most popular items,” the cashier told me. “We sell out every day by late afternoon.” A few weeks later, I was back in the morning, early enough to catch a new shipment of the popular meal-in-a-hand.
What is a Thanksgiving croissant? As the name — and sign — suggest, it combines stuffing-flavored bread, shredded turkey, gravy, a dab of cranberry sauce, and lots and lots and lots of butter. Purists have criticized the pastry, saying it is nothing like a real croissant. That is true. The pastry is like stuffing (er, obvy?), savory with celery salt and thyme, greasy (but in a good way), a contrast of textures — crackly on the outside, soft and steamy within — reminiscent of a crusty pan of baked dressing.
For a place as self-consciously ironic as Momofuku Milk Bar is, I’m always surprised by the genuine friendliness of the staff. The guy behind the counter cheerfully heated up my Thanksgiving croissant (and this after I hemmed and hawed over compost cookies vs. birthday cake truffles) and I ferried the warm, foil-wrapped package to my office a few blocks away. That’s where I’ve been spending a chunk of my day lately, writing email and, well, mainly writing email. In the aftermath of book and baby, I’m still thinking about the next big project and I’m beginning to suspect that contemplation may go on for a while. Anyway, as I ate in the office’s communal kitchen, it occurred to me that the Thanksgiving croissant is misnamed. With its doughy crust, shredded meat, and savory heft, it’s more like a Cornish pasty. (Which is a term I don’t like to use because I don’t know how to pronounce it. Is it “pasty” like “paste”? Isn’t that something worn by burlesque dancers? Or is it pasty, with a short “a” like “pat”?) I thought about the Cornish pasties I used to eat after country walks in Scotland. We’d come in from the rain, and my trousers would be soaked from wading through wet heather, and my friend Andrea’s mum would pour us cups of tea and heat pasties in the Aga. You had to be careful biting into them for fear of burning your mouth on the scalding beef stew within. We’d eat and drink tea, page through the Guardian and relax against the warmth of the kitchen because it’s always cold in Scotland, even in the summer. Eventually the tea would become glasses of wine, and we’d drift toward the stove and start cooking dinner. Those are some of my happiest memories.
I don’t know if it was the light filtering in from the skylight above, or the long table, or the newspapers scattered about, or the Thanksgiving
croissant pasty, but sitting in the kitchen of the communal writers workspace, I was back in Scotland again, transported by food and nostalgia. And then, in a second, I was back in New York with greasy fingers and an eye on the clock, ready to dash home to relieve the nanny once the long hand on the clock hit the hour.
Like most of the best things in life, the Thanksgiving croissant is a fleeting pleasure, available only November. Find out more details here.