Turkey with a “French twist”

Turkey French black

If you are staring at the turkey defrosting in your refrigerator and wondering if there is something you can do to make it a little bit different this year, try some of these techniques from Cuisine Actuelle magazine to give it a French twist.  The turkeys in the recipe are much smaller than our plump domesticated Thanksgiving birds, so multiply ingredients as needed.


Turkey honey spices

The use of honey in France goes back to the days of the Roman Empire, the Merovingians, the Carolingians, and Napoleon, and so on. Under Charlemagne bee keeping was subject to estate management rules and revenue collection. Beekeepers were assigned to royal estates and a tally of income from honey, wax and mead was kept. Today honey is grown in all of France’s 22 regions, producing more than 40 single-flower honeys (miel de cru). So it should come as no surprise that honey would be used to season turkey, much in the way we use brown sugar or maple syrup in the U.S. This recipe combines honey and spices and pairs the turkey with sautéed apples and chestnuts.

Ingredients (for an 8 lb. turkey)

2 lbs. apples
1 jar shelled chestnuts
¾ C. chicken stock
3 T. butter
4 T. liquid honey
1 lemon
¾ C. milk
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
Salt and pepper

Steps of preparation

  1. Mix the honey with the spices.
  2. Place the turkey in a baking dish, brush with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Coat it with butter and place in oven (400° F., or use your own instructions and preferences for roasting).
  3. After 45 minutes of cooking, brush the turkey with the honey-spice mixture and add the chicken broth to the pan. Lower the temperature to 375° F. and continue roasting for 1 hour 30 minutes, basting frequently with the turkey drippings.
  4. Meanwhile, peel and cut apples into quarters; sauté them in the remaining butter until they a softened but not mushy. Rinse the chestnuts; heat them in milk with salt and pepper. Drain them and add to the apples. Stir over low heat to combine.
  5. Remove the turkey from the oven and place on a platter. Degrease and reduce the cooking juices to create a light sauce. Serve the turkey surrounded by the apple-chestnut mixture. Serve sauce on the side.


Turkey with walnuts

Walnuts are a specialty of Southwest France, so the recommended accompaniment to this dish is Pommes de Terre Salardaises—potatoes cut into thick slices and sautéed in goose fat.

Ingredients (for an 8 lb. Turkey)

½ lb. walnuts
½ lb. softened butter
6 T. whiskey
Salt and pepper

Steps of preparation

  1. Chop the walnuts. Incorporate them into the softened butter with 1 T. of whiskey. Add salt and pepper. Season the cavity of the turkey with salt and pepper.
  2. Lift the skin that covers the breast starting at the rump. Scoop some of the butter mixture with a few fingers and spread it under the skin. Gently close the skin. Repeat on the other side and with both thighs. Tie the legs together. Place the turkey in a roasting pan; slide it into a cold oven, then turn up the heat to 350° F. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reaches 160°, basting often with pan juices. Add a little water if necessary.
  3. Remove the turkey from the pan, place it on a flameproof platter, and put it back in the oven with the door open.
  4. Degrease the juices in the pan and put them back in the pan on the stovetop. Pour in 1 cup of water and boil 3 minutes over low heat, scraping the cooking juices.
  5. Flambé the turkey: Heat 5 T. of whiskey slightly, pour it over the turkey and ignite. When the flame dies down serve.

Photo sources: French black turkey; Turkey with Spices; Turkey with Nuts


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