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Jennifer Joan Lee

Cooking Thanksgiving in France

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There is a Thanksgiving store and restaurant where you can either buy all the fixings to take out, or have a traditional dinner at the restaurant. They were opened to cater to the American ex-pats, and you will definitely find what you are looking for here.

Thanksgiving grocery store, 14, rue St-Charles, 4e, Mº St-Paul, tel: 01.42.77.68.29.

Thanksgiving restaurant, 20, rue St-Paul, 4e, Mº St-Paul, tel: 01.42.77.68.28.

There is also a branch of the NY resto Joe Allens, also serving traditional Thanksgiving fare.

Joe Allen, 30, rue Pierre Lescot, 1er, Mº Etienne Marcel, tel: 01.42.36.70.13.

Bonne fete!!

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It’s finally turning into a real tradition here at our home in France. We have so much to be thankful for. And the French people I know take this pretty seriously.

I hope there are other eGullet expats here in France who can share ideas and things they've done to make Thanksgiving in their own way here. Anyone who's looked for a good quality turkey the week after the Beaujolais Nouveau arrives knows it's a real task.

I was going to do away with the turkey this year, since frankly it's such a hassle to get a good one so early in the year (i.e. not at Christmas time). We either get fast growing industrial birds or itty bitty scrawny free rangers, nothing over 5 lbs. available. But my husband won't hear of it. I never realized how involved he's gotten with the tradition of the monster bird. Our French guests always moan and groan when it's served, but they love it. We know it.

This year, in my mind I was planning to serve a turkey consommé with little corn breads and a fresh poultry herb purée, followed by some other courses (chestnuts with smoked ham, the multi-gourd succotash we love, a tomato sorbet), then game animals. Rabbit, quail, maybe a side of wild boar etc., which is abundant this time of year. Different fresh breads with each course. Cornbread, cloverleaf rolls, and then little individual loafs of multi-grain bread to go with the salad and cheese course (French touch).

My husband, who began celebrating Thanksgiving when he met me, wants the biggest turkey we can find, who cares if it's a factory bird, and he wants it with all of the fixins at the same time. He says it's all about the stuffing, and he's probably right. We always serve three kinds: plain, one with fresh oysters, and one with sausage and extra sage. He strongly resisted letting me serve certain dishes as a separate course. We are going to compromise - after I worked out the schedule and showed him that it will run logistically more smoothly by breaking certain dishes off into courses, and after assuring him that yes, the chestnuts will be available with the turkey if anyone would like a second serving, he agreed.

One other thing that is changing is the guest list. My husband has locked in confirmation from relatives all over France. Not only are his parents coming up from the midi, his sister and her boyfriend are coming from Grenoble, and a cousin from Paris. So it's a real family affair this year.

Is there anyone else in France who will be celebrating Thanksgiving in France?

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And what do your guests think of pumpkin pie? Best of luck to you in finding your turkey..........is your oven big enough to hold a 20 pounder?


I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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And what do your guests think of pumpkin pie?  Best of luck to you in finding your turkey..........is your oven big enough to hold a 20 pounder?

It's funny you should ask about the pumkin pie, Susan. My husband has taken that as his yearly job, and he makes it every year. We used an old Southern Living recipe, that calls for a can of this and a can of that. Products you don't find here. Those good old down home traditions we find in Southern Living, you know. But we use fresh everything, and we have to cook things down a bit - it turns out nicely and isn't as sweet. The French guests say it's interesting. As a rule, they don't really associate cinnamon with sweet flavors and are taken aback by it, as they are with cinnamon in apple pie. You see it more and more often, though. When Loic does it, I say it's the best pumkin pie ever made. I was telling him that this year I want little tartlettes, because I just don't see everyone being ready to take on slabs of pumkin pie after the meal. I guess because all these people are traveling great distances for this, I want to get this meal just right for them this year. We want to try and keep things on an equilibrium and not throw them into sugar shock at the end.

As for the size of the turkey, we actually purchased our first oven because it could handle a "real turkey". Our oven now is much smaller, at least half the size of the first one we had, and last year it was able to handle a 7 kilo bird. (about 15 lbs.) That fit nicely and in setting the air circulation to roast, gave a perfectly browned bird. The oven really does a wonderful job. It turned out just lovely. Almost too perfect.

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When I was at the university in Rennes, three years ago, about twenty Americans went to a restaurant in the city for a Thanksgiving dinner, which had been pre-arranged by the director of the program for foreign students at the university. It was actually really fun, and I enjoyed seeing what the restaurant made of Thanksgiving. The food wasn't great, but many of the usual suspects, and lots of red wine, graced the tables. Definitely no pumpkin pie for the dessert course--actually, "pie" didn't make it at all, we had a tarte tatin. The staff at the restuarant seemed pretty amused by the whole thing, but they were really friendly. It was good times.


"There is no worse taste in the mouth than chocolate and cigarettes. Second would be tuna and peppermint. I've combined everything, so I know."

--Augusten Burroughs

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Do you celebrate this on the actual Thursday that they celebrate on in the US? This is a regular work day in France, as well as the Friday following....

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Do you celebrate this on the actual Thursday that they celebrate on in the US? This is a regular work day in France, as well as the Friday following....

So very sorry I did not get to your question earlier!

We only celebrated on the Thursday once, when it was just the two of us. It was difficult once more people started getting involved, because of work restraints, your're absolutely right. Therefore we have begun celebrating on the Saturday following the Thursday. This gives people a chance to travel. We have also had some resistance to the meal taking place at noon (as was the tradition in my family, growing up). This year we are making it an evening meal. They said they don't care if we eat till 2AM. This saves me the hassle of getting up a 6 in the morning to stuff the turkey, so I don't mind. :rolleyes:

I enjoyed seeing what the restaurant made of Thanksgiving. The food wasn't great, but many of the usual suspects, and lots of red wine, graced the tables.

Fritz, what was on the menu? It sounds like it must have been fun.

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Fritz, what was on the menu?  It sounds like it must have been fun.

It was fun! The meal was really pretty basic stuff, from what I remember... as it was a university-organized meal, my guess is that it was pretty low-budget. Roast turkey, gravy, roasted and mashed potatoes, bread (bien sûr! :smile: ), green salad, corn/carrots (at least, that's what I remember, but it may have been another kind of veg.), etc. The thing is, I can't recall if there was stuffing, and I LOVE stuffing... so there probably wasn't. It was my first thanksgiving without family or very close friends, and certainly my first one overseas, so it all added up to an interesting, silly night. I think some of us went to a bar after, and that was

*definitely* a first. :smile:


"There is no worse taste in the mouth than chocolate and cigarettes. Second would be tuna and peppermint. I've combined everything, so I know."

--Augusten Burroughs

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I was going to do away with the turkey this year, since frankly it's such a hassle to get a good one so early.

For those in Paris, however, there's at least one source: Maitre Mathieu, a take-out rotisserie place on the rue du Poteau in the 18th. A few years ago I saw his predecessor "Maitre Guillaume's" sign indicating dinde for le Thanksgiving and at the time I asked, he had almost 30 orders. Since there are not that many Americans around folks are coming from somewhere else.

To be honest, however, about my meal that Thursday, it'll be game of some sort not dinde. Sorry, but I cannot pass that up for turkey.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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I was going to do away with the turkey this year, since frankly it's such a hassle to get a good one so early.

...

To be honest, however, about my meal that Thursday, it'll be game of some sort not dinde. Sorry, but I cannot pass that up for turkey.

This was my sentiment exactly! My thought is that Thanksgiving is a holiday where we give thanks for what we have. Wild game fits the bill here in France at this time of year. In my imagination, I was dreaming up a creaking buffet covered with stuffed game from all corners of the woods and field, brimming with various stuffings like cornucopias of viande, vessels of sauce, apples in mouths, etc. But Loic won't let me.

For the Christmas meal here in France, we have had Boar, sometimes a roast beef, sometimes Langoustes with caper sauce and/or a nice big fat chapon. My mother-in-law talks to the butcher, to her friends, to everyone around her in line at the market, her co-workers, etc. for weeks and then comes up with a plan. She determines what she's going to cook according to what's popular, what's especially good that year. That's the way it should be...

But for Thanksgiving, my husband's French view is that without a turkey, it's not really an American Thanksgiving meal. I suspect he loves the spectacle and having an excuse to carve this huge bird at the head of the table (which he never had the opportunity to do at home at Christmastime, with his father and various uncles holding seniority), and to show others how it's done. He also may be afraid that if we serve large amounts of other things, it may be seen as gluttonous, but not so for the Turkey, because it is the tradition and we must follow it. He's been bragging for years to everyone about our yearly Turkey excursions, about to what lengths we go to get them at the wrong season, about the discussions and sometimes pleading that goes on, calls to farmers, and friends who know people with farms, the promises kept and broken alike, the sending of our local merchants to seedy locales to fulfill this wholly uncommon request, and the silly misunderstandings that have happened. That's what they'll all be expecting. So Turkey it is. This time it's going to have to be the meal that wows as a whole, and we're sticking to the Turkey, hell or high water.

Thank you for the suggestion about Maitre Mathieu. This year we are going to order ours this year through a butcher at Les Halles here in Lyon. I will take the camera along, of course. I am really going to try and get it just right this time, because never, not once, has an order come back as I requested it. In one circumstance, I had to finish plucking and empty the carcass myself, and once the bird was partially cut into pieces. Two years ago, I ordered a certain weight bird and not one but two birds were delivered, totalling the weight I requested. This time I am going to go over it with the butcher (making sure I am speaking with the boss of the operation) carefully and in great detail. My regular butcher simply cannot comprehend my desire to have a turkey at the end of November, even if I try and explain, and says that the only birds available don't meet his quality standard, thus he won't do it. He obstinately refused to carry out the order last year, and I can respect that. But I have to do what I have to do.

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I can sooner support a Frenchman's choice to have turkey than an American's. We generally braise a goose, but we've also clearly told our daughter that we're ready to pass the baton. Our contribution to her renovations was a fine stove that's clearly more up-to-date than ours and much better for the task. The last time we had turkey, it was not at our house and it was a wild turkey which is not a bad bird at all. The event was slightly marred by offers to help cook. It never occurred to me that when I asked someone to strain the deglazing and stock that was to become the sauce, it would be done over the empty sink. Fortunately I noticed early and managed to catch enough of the stock in a pot.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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i haven't anyone to ask, and have often wondered. can some kind soul phonetically render the pronunication of "dinde"? thanks. (for a bonus, please confirm syllabic emphasis on calvados--cal vah-DOS or CAL vah dos?)

merci beaucoup. vous etes tres gentile. (have no clue where the marks are...)


"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Turkey ..... lah dahnd ......La dinde

Calvados: 'kalvu' dows ... I always accent the first syllable


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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i haven't anyone to ask, and have often wondered. can some kind soul phonetically render the pronunication of "dinde"? thanks. (for a bonus, please confirm syllabic emphasis on calvados--cal vah-DOS or CAL vah dos?)

merci beaucoup. vous etes tres gentile. (have no clue where the marks are...)

danhd sounds right

but calva is quicker

As for

the Christmas meal here in France, we have had Boar,

I have found marcassin and biche to work well, altho one does use up a lot of otherwise good wine.


John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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Well, a whole lot of expats, in fact everyone I know here in France who is celebrating Thanksgiving is doing it tomorrow. Today I have put the finishing touches on my schedule and people have begun arriving in town.

A co-worker gave me the number of a farm where you can go and choose your turkey, and I left numerous messages. They finally left me the message that they were unable to take my order, so it's off to Les Halles to pick up the bird, this time, which I have asked the butcher to prepare "like a chicken ready to stuff". I was not in the room when the size was specified, I just took the phone when my husband was struggling to explain to him what we want...

I'm off to get my nails done before going home for a nice evening of cooking. I love Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law is sitting in a cafe in centre ville right now waiting for me, ready for the hand off of the pecans. She has a source down in Provence, I don't ask questions.

Our meal will be much like other Thanksgivings, but we have to do a little "bricolage" that's French for "handy-work" here and there with ingredients. I am also doing everything I can to pay hommage to the bounty available to us.

It'll start with a soup, a consomme de poule de Bresse with truffle raviolis. I picked up the poule on Wednesday from the producer's market. The bird was one year old when she gave her life for the wonderful meal we are about to prepare.

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I must call in an order my regular butcher for various things. Bye now!

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Have fun, Lucy!


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Lucy - sorry, I came to this late. They sell Libby's pumpkin puree here in London - which I understand is good for pumpkin pies. If you wanted (for next year, or whenever), drop me a line and I can buy some and send it over.

Hope the meal went well.


"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Hi and thanks for the well wishes.

I posted in another thread about the state of the turkey which is now sitting out and waiting for the stuffing. When you are in foreign country, Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning, I guess I realized that a long time ago. It has always been a rather important holiday tradition in my mind, ranking up there with Christmas. So when abroad I put pressure on myself to do it justice. Even if I have to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy getting the ingredients, etc. When abroad, one must roll with the punches. So when the butcher at Les Halles showed me the hog tied bundle of parts (ok I exaggerate), it was particularly disturbing. Not because it was anyone's fault, but because, well, to put it bluntly, I think the turkey has more of a symbolic meaning in my mind than just a bird, or even the holiday. Every year I direct a great deal of importance into the turkey, probably because it's almost impossible to find one here in France at this time of year prepped just the way I need it to be. It's my own mind's way of wrapping around the many difficulties I have had integrating here. Every year I start off very calm and cool, thinking this year, now that my French is that much better, I will be able to get them to comply. It never happens. I think after this year I am ready to move on from Turkey to the beautiful game I was passing by in all of the displays at Les Halles. This is my last year with the Turkey.

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While at Les Halles, after viewing the hog tied bundle of scraps called our Thanksgiving turkey, I pined over the beautiful festive feast birds and the profusion game.

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This is what we are going to look for next year, I think.

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They really did a number on the skin. I have no idea how to keep them from doing this - they systematically do it every year, even when I specifically ask them not to. I suspect that the turkeys arrive from the depot in rather damaged condition because they are subsequently carved up and their parts are sold, never whole.

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The corn bread had been made in advance and the fixings for the regular stuffing were in place. I use fermented milk from the middle eastern grocery in place of the buttermilk, and this year in a bind because of a lack of corn meal anywhere in the neighborhood, I mixed masa harina and semoule! eeek! But it tasted alright...

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The turkey was too large for any of our roasting pans (we have not control over the size of the turkey, we simply order and cross our fingers, so I had to go out at the last minute and get some root vegetables to build a support. One year I tried roasting the bird directly on the rack and it burned and smoked us almost out of the house. You have too either use a rack that will suspend it above the surface or build one out of veggies.

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Just as I was finishing the support, Loic came in with the oysters, and they put me in a better mood at once. They were fresh and delicious and Loic had had them opened at Les Halles. They cost by the dozen less if we don't have the oyster man cut them open, but we had him do it anyway because it's just a pain in the arse wither everything else that's going on. We've decied to only two kinds of stuffing, regular cornbread, and oyster.

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I sent Loic back out to get more cream for the chantilly.

The regular stuffing went into the main cavity of the bird, and then the final problem was what to do with the oyster stuffing, which always goes into the neck. I searched everywhere for the crepine that the supposedly butcher at Les Halles gave me, but didn't find it, so it was back out again to my normal butcher (he won't do turkeys this time of year), to ask him for some crepine. He gave it to me, no charge. :smile: He's the greatest butcher, even if I can't take pictures of him.

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Complete with crown of thorns.

Butter and a finish of fleur de sel and that was out of the way.

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SLKinsey completely inspired me this year with his "Derby Style Pecan Tarte" aka pecan pie. My husband usually makes the pies for thanksgiving, but when he saw the recipe and saw my insistence that it be made this year, he quickly found a whole slew of things that needed to be done other than making pie. I agreed that I'd make the crust for him, and sent him off on a hunt for Kentucky Bourbon, which we were not sure would be available. We made a deal. If he finds the Bourbon, I will make the tarte. If not, he'd make a pumpkin pie with the crust I'd made while he was out searching for the bourbon. I also told him to hurry up and listed the timeframe he would have to do the pie in if he didn't show up with the goods.

The crust came together like a dream. Although Sam's recipe calls for two types of flour, American All purpose and pastry, I just used the French type 55 which in the end is a cross between the two. I eyeballed the butter, and instead of sour cream, I used creme fraiche epaisse, and used a dollop, which was all I needed. :smile:

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That went into the freezer and I then steamed the veggies and put together the "casseroles" with ingredients I'd prepared already. Creamed chestnuts and bacon, Asparagus with a Comte mornay, Peas and carrots simple (gotta have something vibrant and green), and chopped the veggies for a succotash.

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Loic arrived with the Bourbon. Thus the rest of the afternoon (up until the time the turkey went in) was all about this pie. It was really a pleasure to prepare Sam's recipe. I have to say that there is a slight inconsistency in step 2 (cream vs milk - I used cream), and in the final step where butter was in the ingredients but not in the method. But what a wonderful, soothing, entirely joyful experience making this pie was.

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About the ingredients: working in a foreign country, one has absolutely no choice but to "bricoler". Thus for the Golden Syrup, I was force to use "syrop de canne". For the specific brand of Bourbon, well, we were lucky enough to find anything at all, and ironically it was called "SAMROCK" bourbon. Instead of Belgian chocolate, of course we used French. The eggs weren't extra large, but they did the job. The vanilla I had on hand comes as ground bean in sugar, so I used that during the candy stage. Instead of kosher salt, I used fleur de sel.

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Don't forget baking paper when proofing the pie shell - doh! My 5 year old blackeyed peas have perhaps seen their last pie shell.

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I think I was supposed to put some butter in with the sugar syrup for the whole pecan topping (Sam, it's not mentioned in your method - can you clarify that?), and it crystallized, and I think that the "Syrop de Canne" didn't behave the same as golden syrup would have. However I was quite satisfied with the result. This was just before serving it at the table.

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