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Thanksgiv(ukkah) in Paris (part 1)

I'm in Paris for a few months--I'll be here till the end of November. (I have been lurking on this board, so thanks to all the Parisian regulars for the great tips!).
So Thanksgiving is coming and for the first time in 77,000 years it will fall on Hanukkah. So I can't ignore it this year. We are inviting a few (French and American) friends to our place. Before I start a thread on the peculiarities of this occasion, I had a couple of general turkey questions.
First of all, unlike some people, I actually like turkey. I especially like turkey that tastes like something--I've been getting some decent free-range birds in the States lately. So the prospect of trying French turkeys could be good. So here is my question: Thanksgiving (the store) advertises "American-style" turkeys (more white meat). Would a regular French Dinde Fermier be a better bet? If so, any advice on how to prepare it vs. a decent American bird? Any affordable butchers you would recommend? I live in the 11th.

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  1. There is definately a difference between turkeys from a local butcher and "Butterballs." The French folk who know the States like Ptipois and Julot and Parnassien can better answer than I; I've only assisted at cooking one whole one but have bought legs from my rotisseur. To me that turkey was more lean, free range and tasty rather than plump and full of water.

    18 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott

      "The French folk who know the States like Ptipois and Julot and Parnassien can better answer than I"

      I've banished turkey from my universe... maybe only Ptipois or Parigi can help on this one

        1. re: Ptipois

          If I could get away with it, I'd simply banish Thanksgiving, the most time consuming to produce and least gustatorially satisfying meal in either my cooking or dining experiences.

          I find myself the alpha female in our family this year, so I guess I have to just suck it up, maybe throw some garlic at it and smile.

          1. re: mangeur

            "Throw some garlic at it" is a solution to many problems and misfortunes in this world.

          2. re: Ptipois

            Come on all you banishers, chefMolnar says "I actually like turkey."

            1. re: John Talbott

              Thanks, John, for the support and thanks to Sunshine for the advice. As much as I like Spaghetti Carbonara, I can't resist this multicultural opportunity. We will have about 8 guests, so fortunately, I won't need a 22-lb. (10-kilo) bird. Right now I am getting prices between €15-17 a kilo from local butchers. No car, unfortunately.
              If it's just prohibitive, I guess I could try another bird. If so, what? It should be fairly large, taste like something, and look cool before carving. Goose is traditional for Hanukkah in Europe, but I'm not going to experiment with it for that many people. My experience with American capons has been underwhelming.

              1. re: chefMolnar

                Pintade (Guinea Fowl) could be an alternative, although you will need a couple of birds. The flavour is different to chicken so interesting for those that have not tried it. Of course Chicken can be superb in France and there are many many different varieties, from good value to luxury in terms of price.

                Find a shop that specialises in poultry rather than a general butcher for the best selection - there was a great one on rue Marche St Honore, or if that fails the poultry counter at Bon Marche used to have a very good selection. They will eviscerate, behead and take off the feet to order and you should be asked if you want to giblets - and say yes as they are essential for good gravy.

                An of course its games season so you may get pheasant - but for eight people thats going to be four birds.

                1. re: chefMolnar

                  You could find a good, not too large French capon.

                  But please, whatever you do, cook the stuffing inside the bird and not outside. Anything baked outside can't be called stuffing. I was traumatized for life by the sight of "stuffing" coming out of a bag and being baked one level below the oversized monster in my in-laws' oven in New England.

                  I'm a zero concerning turkeys but I am really good at stuffings.

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    I have been having very good experiences with the French Poulet Fermier, but I did want to try something different.
                    How would you describe the taste of French capons, say, compared to regular French roasting chickens? I find American capons quite bland.

                    1. re: chefMolnar

                      American chickens are bland too. French capons are like French chickens. Just choose a good origin/brand and you're fine.

                      Poulet des Landes, Saint-Sever, poulet jaune du Gers, poulet du Périgord and Poulet de Challans = all good.

                      One tip: if you buy the bird from a Monoprix or other supermarket (not necessarily the worst option), remove the lumps of fat that hide behind the cavity opening. If you buy it from a butcher, ungutted, and the butcher guts it for you, please do ask him to be careful with the skin before it is too late, since all poultry butchers now tear the abdominal skin up to the ribs, so that it is then impossible to stuff the bird. Bear that in mind, I have that problem all the time.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        I know well how bland American chickens are. It's just that the last time I tried a capon it seemed, somehow, ...emasculated.

                        Our Monoprix near Nation is supposed to be pretty good so I will check it out. But I have been wondering about what a butcher will do here when you ask it to prepare your bird. The first time I asked for a chicken cut up (I wanted it jointed) the guy took out the thigh bone and hacked the breast in half vertically. At least I got him to give me the feet and the liver.

                        1. re: chefMolnar

                          I don't know your hood. I swear by Marcel at Marché St Quentin. The Harvard butcher (daughter lectures there) on rue 86 rue Faubourg St Denis is also ace. No way would they massacre your bird. Your butcher sounds like an assassin.
                          http://www.yelp.com/biz/boucherie-gou...

                          If you live near Nation, bear in mind that a marché de producteurs will be held on the weekend of November 16/17. That's when we get our stock of farm foie gras plus aiguillettes de canard, our fave cut which you can get from any butcher in Paris.

                          Kurtis, dude, are you reading this ? Maybe we can visit the market together barring any El Nino type blizzard ?

                          1. re: chefMolnar

                            I have never seen a butcher massacre a chicken in the way you describe. What is the difference between jointed and cut up?

                            If you are near Nation, you've got what is (in my opinion) the best and largest open market in Paris, on Cours de Vincennes.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              It may be the way I asked for it (I must confess my French is rudimentary at best--my wife is the real Francophone in the family). He said "morceaux?" and I said oui. What I got were breasts and back sliced lengthwise (so that each half of the backbone had some breast meat), drumsticks attached to thigh meat without the thigh bone, and the wings. It seemed strange to me, but what do I know?
                              I've been going to the Charonne market, but I'll check out Cours de Vicennes.

                              1. re: chefMolnar

                                The French way to cut up a chicken (by volaillers) is: thigh + drumstick (volailler asks you if you want them separate), wings with one part of the breast meat, breast in 2 pieces (sliced lengthwise, bone-in) or 4 pieces (each half halved), and back cut in 2 parts (parson's nose with the 2 sot-l'y-laisse attached, and front part on which there is nothing to eat).

                                So, depending on your preference, you may get 8, 10, or 12 pieces, but generally the volailler asks you how exactly you want it cut up.

                                I've NEVER seen the thigh bone removed by any butcher. This one was from a strange planet.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  "So, depending on your preference, you may get 8, 10, or 12 pieces,"
                                  Or 2 or 4 or 6.
                                  My guy will acommodate me and cut fowl up in any number of cuts I wish - I do it depending on the crowd.
                                  And I've never had an obliterated animal.

                      2. re: Ptipois

                        In our house it's not stuffing, it's dressing. and it doesn't go in the bird. :) I also love turkey, but I think if I were celebrating Thanksgiving oops, Thanksgivukkah in Paris, I'd go with roasting a couple of chickens and preparing all the other trimmings that are traditional to you. (since every family is different.)

                      3. re: chefMolnar

                        That's interesting to know about the goose. Hmm...I never knew that.

              2. The problem is that the producers plan to have their turkeys at a good roasting size by Christmas, since Thanksgiving doesn't exist outside of the expat community in Paris, so MOST of the turkeys are the size of large chickens by the end of November.

                DON'T order an overpriced bird from Thanksgiving -- they're badly overpriced, and I've yet to talk to someone who speaks highly of them. (they're close to highway robbery on all the fixin's, too -- head to G. Detout for pecans -- larger supermarkets and marches around Gare du Nord/Est will have things like sweet potatoes.

                Head out and start talking to volaillers and boucheries -- ask them if they can order a whole bird for you. Expect them to look at you like you have suddenly sprouted a horn. Explain that you're American and it's for Thanksgiving -- then they'll at least not think you're loopy.

                Brace yourself -- you'll spend €10 or more per kilo -- yes, you'll part with US$100 or more for your bird -- and it will have to be small, as anything over about 10-12 pounds just won't fit into a French oven.

                ETA: advise if you have a car -- I know a farm out (way, way out) in the 77 where you can order a bird, but there's no way to get there via public transport.

                15 Replies
                1. re: sunshine842

                  "Brace yourself -- you'll spend €10 or more per kilo "
                  The last turkey I bought here was over 70 E if memory serves me.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    we spent at least that every year when we were out in the wilds of the Seine-et-Marne....I'm sure it's quite a lot higher in the city.

                  2. re: sunshine842

                    ETA: advise if you have a car -- I know a farm out (way, way out) in the 77 where you can order a bird, but there's no way to get there via public transport.

                    They'd have birds that are big enough to roast, by late November? I have a car and an américanophile wife, and would appreciate the coordinates very much!

                    1. re: tmso

                      they're not very big -- 5 kilos or so, but they're here:

                      http://www.fermedestuiles.com/

                      You could combine it with a day trip to Nemours and/or Milly-la-Foret.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        We head down to the Fontainebleau area from time to time anyway, so that's about the most convenient location for an out in the country poultry farm. Merci énormément!

                        1. re: tmso

                          Enjoy -- they have a small shop with locally-made products (including Gatinois saffron) and Madame's home-made terrines (which are knock-your-socks-off) -- dit bonjour from the other Americans!

                          You'll need to reserve this week or next, as they butcher on Wednesdays, Works out okay, since you'll likely end up with the celebration on Thursday!

                          I'll miss seeing them this year -- they're a wonderfully kind family (but I get to spend Thanksgiving with MY family this year!)

                          1. re: tmso

                            For the first time, I am sorry I don't drive in Europe. It sounds like a great deal.

                            1. re: chefMolnar

                              and it's a really beautiful corner of the Ile de France -- Milly-la-Foret is worth a visit all by itself.

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Love the Halle there. Love the market under the Halle where we have shopped for dozens of picnics.
                                And the little jewel of a chapel decorated by Jean Cocteau !

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  picking up the turkey became a Girls' Calm Before The Swarm -- several of us would pile into the car, have a lovely lunch in Milly, then go collect the turkeys before we went home to start cleaning and cooking. Fun.

                              2. re: chefMolnar

                                Where is Souphie when you need him? Perchance you could cajole him into making the trek with you...

                              3. re: tmso

                                Hélas, I should have just taken what my local butcher could find. Although they said they would have a 4-5 kg bird, the reality was just over 3 kg, and very badly butchered. Skin torn in several places, many bits of feathers stuck in the skin. Even though it was only 15 minutes out of the way, I regret the trip.

                                Lesson learned: I should just trust my trusted butcher!

                                1. re: tmso

                                  Or pre-order with my Dordogne farmer-butcher. In fact he is at the Vanves market this weekend, and will be back at Enfants Roughes on the 14/15 December weekend.

                                  Our turkey totally delivered, and we did not even leave Paris. It was a 3.5 kilo one, and it was the size we wanted.
                                  The butcher told us he had just delivered a huge one last Thursday to some Americans in Paris. On Thursdays it also delivers to restos like - you better sit down - Le Châteaubriant, Spring, Bistro Paul Bert…

                                  Here is its calendar for the year-end.
                                  13 au 15 Décembre Pari Fermier Vanves
                                  14 et 15 Décembre Enfants Rouges
                                  21 et 22 Décembre Enfants Rouges

                                  These are their prices:
                                  Tarif marchés et salons Paris
                                  OU et QUAND: voir à la rubrique « planning ».
                                  GRATUIT: 1 volaille gratuite pour 10 achetées (1 volaille = 1 poulet, pintade, lapin, canette, 1/2 chapon, 1/ dinde, 1/2 pintadon, 2 pigeons, 5dz extras frais, 1k de découpe, 1k autruche).
                                  LIVRAISON: le jeudi matin. Paris intras muros (+ 10ct/km au delà) 20€ de 5 à 15 volailles ou équivalent. 1€/volaille à partir de 16 volailles.
                                  TARIFS
                                  Découpe poulet Cuisse: 14,70/k, carcasse: 0,80/pièce, aileron: 5,60/k, blanc, foie et gésier: 17,60/k
                                  Poulet 9,00/k (rôti 13,50/k)
                                  Pintade 10,30/k (rôti 13,50/k)
                                  Lapin 11,00/k
                                  Canette ou canard 11,70/k
                                  Oie (déc) 16,90/k
                                  Pigeonneau 17,90/k
                                  Pigeon de réforme 5,80/k
                                  Chapon au lait 15,40/k
                                  Chapon loupé au lait 11,80/k
                                  Pintadon au lait (nov/déc) 30,00/pièce
                                  Dindon-chapon au lait (nov/déc) 8,20/k
                                  Dinde (nov/déc) 10,40/k
                                  Poule (mi déc) 5,70/k
                                  Oeufs 1jour 3,70/boite de 6, 13,00/plateau de 30
                                  Oeufs extras frais 2,60/boite, 10,00/plateau, 90,00/carton de 360
                                  Oeufs frais 1,80/boite, 6,50/plateau, 60,00/carton
                                  oeufs 3 semaines 1,20/boite, 3,50/plateau, 30,00/carton
                                  Autruche (déc) 30,00/k
                                  Pineau (d’une voisine) 16,00/litre
                                  Divers: 1 litre sang, 1k pattes, mise ss vide: 1,00

                                  Their number: 05 5391 3026
                                  Enfants Rouges: 2 producteurs
                                  Mer & Vigne 10-20% de Producteurs
                                  MPP: Marchés de Producteurs de Pays 90% de producteurs
                                  Pari Fermier: 99% de producteurs

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Thanks for the tip; I'll take a look and give them a try if it looks good.

                          2. I like turkey, too. Especially French turkey. So sue me. Just go to your favorite butcher and order a bird about a week ahead, and prepare for sticker shock. The expat-filled suburb I live in ensures that I'll just get an eye roll and something muttered about "American Christmas". The first year I ordered one, the butcher pleaded with me to cook it low and slow, because "this is a good French turkey". And he was right. No brining or anything: just season, rub with butter, stuff if you like, and cook at about 170 for a couple of hours--mine's usually done before I think it should be...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mbcraw4d

                              yes -- better flavor, more moist...I use olive oil instead of butter, but low and slow wins.

                            2. We are Thanksgiving non-banishers. We don't go out of our way to any butcher.
                              We simply go to our favorite 'hood butcher and ask him to order a turkey.
                              Our fave stuffing has been :
                              1. Cantones fried rice
                              2. oysters, celery and bread.
                              3. rosemary, garlic, anchovies.
                              Pti the banisher was one of the guests and saved our turkey from the new oven's caprices and helped us make one of the best turkeys. -- Even she liked it. C'est dire.

                              Our last turkey cost around 50 euro, from the incandescent Marcel of the St Quentin market, the same price as the aristocratic chicken (Barbezieux) that Julot once hand-delivered to us.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Parigi

                                Naturally, I don't dislike a good farm turkey when it is roasted properly. And I will happily save any of my human brothers/sisters who are facing a culinary riddle of any kind. But I find turkey in general the least interesting of all poultry items. Especially the big fat industrial type, "monstrum horrendum, informe".

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  I forgot to mention: that was indeed a dinde fermière. Of course. Need I specify.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    I remembered and I thought it useless to specify, for had it not been a dinde fermière I would have pelted you with chestnuts all evening.

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      Here's a non-banishable concept: Thanxgiving food fight !

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Yeah, that pretty much describes Thanksgiving for a lot of families.

                              2. Another good way to source a transcendental farm turkey is to haunt the marchés de producteurs in Paris (one today in Vincennes, Parc Floral). Case out a good-looking poultry dude (I mean the poultry, although a good-looking dude always helps), and ask him if and when he is coming back to Paris. There is another marché de producteurs scheduled around Thanksgiving week. If all things work out, book a turkey for him to bring next time. (Get his farm's number, price, etc.)

                                1. I've lost track of where we are/were but (despite your caution) goose is not a bad choice, nor capon nor pintade from a good guy (and at least all my buchers are guys, so no accusations of sexism please.)
                                  But since I often confess to sins here I wouldn't to even P. Francis, the best Thankgiving meal I've had in France (well, Geneva) was marcassin, cooked with a poivrade-type sauce of about 12 bottles of red wine reduced down to an intense thick heavenly end-point that left us all swooning.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    Sounds pretty intense, but I don't think marcassin will quite work for Hanukkah ;^).

                                    OK, here's where we are at this point: First choice, dinde fermière if I can find one I can afford. Second choice, a couple of pintades. I'm thinking along the lines of something with apples, chestnuts, and a cidre normande gravy.
                                    I will check out Parigi's boucherie recommendations.
                                    Any other insights welcome.

                                    1. re: chefMolnar

                                      >>> Second choice, a couple of pintades. I'm thinking along the lines of something with apples, chestnuts, and a cidre normande gravy.

                                      Yeah!!!
                                      You don't have to do like me but this is what I do (Norman-style):

                                      Roast pintades
                                      When halfway done, add peeled, cored and quartered apples (and chestnuts if you wish) and a couple of halved shallots. No garlic.
                                      Finish roasting, basting often.
                                      When done, just hot from the oven, pour calvados over everything and flambé.
                                      Then add some crème fraîche.
                                      It is possible to baste with cider while roasting but do flambé with calvados. Works with pintade, chicken and pheasant.

                                      1. re: Ptipois

                                        Wow, sounds great. Do you put anything in the birds?

                                        1. re: chefMolnar

                                          I have to disagree with Ptipois about the stuffing. Call it "dressing" if you like, but do cook it outside the bird. If it's cooked inside, you have to keep the whole thing in the oven an hour longer, which more or less guarantees an over-cooked bird, Outside, and not in a bag, it gets crisp, and can be moistened with drippings, which will give it a taste of whatever bird you choose to roast.

                                          1. re: bcc

                                            I made dressing in the crockpot in Paris because I didn't have room in my oven...it came out so good, I'll do it that way forever!

                                            Nice and crispy crust all around the outside -- and I make it with homemade stock -- but I'll miss the fat Normandy oysters this year.

                                            1. re: bcc

                                              It is not a problem of cooking but of terminology. That's just what I meant. Not that it's good or bad. If it is cooked outside, it is no longer stuffing.

                                              1. re: Ptipois

                                                "stuffing"
                                                Good point.
                                                Aren't most of our family's "stuffings" or most encornets' or veal/etc's. "stuffings" prepared aside?
                                                Just asking.

                                                1. re: Ptipois

                                                  heehee -- I'm with you -- if it's in the bird, it's stuffing. If it's in a dish, it's dressing.

                                                2. re: bcc

                                                  In English, I've always heard "dressing", but that is in Canada. "Farce" in French, of course.

                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                    My two daugthers almost came to (verbal) blows over the difference 2 weeks ago.

                                                3. re: chefMolnar

                                                  Generally, I don't. I can put a few shallots, onions or apples inside to provide some volume inside so that the birds do not get too dry, but if your fowl is good quality you shouldn't need that.

                                                4. re: Ptipois

                                                  My best friend (a Georgia girl by birth) made pintade like this for her Thanksgivings for years -- she was actually a little peeved that I appeared on the scene and found a whole turkey within a few weeks. (she doesn't hold a grudge, though...)

                                            2. I strongly recommend Mark Bittman's method of braising a deconstructed turkey.
                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/din...
                                              Since the leg/thighs and breasts cook at different rates, Mr Bittman advises, "But if the white meat is handled like a chicken breast and just barely cooked through, it remains moist and tender. And if the dark meat is cooked for a long time, with moisture, it becomes so tender it gains the consistency of pulled pork.

                                              The way to achieve both of these states simultaneously is to braise, and the best starting place is not with a whole turkey but with turkey parts — specifically, thighs and breasts."
                                              http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/din...

                                              This also solves the conundrum of cooking a large bird in a small oven.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: UPDoc

                                                A good tip and a very classic technique that works with all poultry including chicken. Equally, stuffing, barding, and slow cooking a bird is a good way to retain moisture - a good chestnut stuffing in one end and sage and onion in the other.

                                                1. re: UPDoc

                                                  I just had good results with a chicken done on the thighs first (thigh, thigh, back, breast), as recommended by Souphie on this board and others. I'm going to try it again for my turkey.

                                                  1. re: UPDoc

                                                    imho Bittman makes a big deal out of what shouldn't be. Been roasting turkeys for close to 50 years, never had a dry one, and always brought them to the table whole and glorious!

                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      I'd consider following his recipe any other day of the year, but just once a year, I need a WHOLE bird sitting on the table.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        Totally agree. None of this deconstruct alternative crap. And no tofu turkey for me.

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          Fowl bits and parts baked at different times are not "roasted chicken" as I know it. They're oven-roasted chicken parts.

                                                          Roasted whole, a fowl is a different dish from roasted parts, for reasons related to physics and the repartition of heat. It has a taste of its own, a smell of its own, a juiciness of its own, a mouthfeel of its own, and you serve it and deal with the leftovers in a completely different way.

                                                          1. re: Ptipois

                                                            Pot notes on Thanksgiving past: Because I needed to prepare TD dinner with the help of a 2 year old, then haul portions to her mom (and dad) in hospital, I took an extraordinarily easy route. I spatchcocked it. it roasted in 80 minutes, all parts tender and juicy. No, no big bird to present at table, but this year there really wasn't a formal table. Just turkey and all the fixins and a sigh of relief that all were well. Really worked in a pinch.

                                                            1. re: mangeur

                                                              for a situation like that, you gotta do what you gotta do.

                                                              Since you were going to have to cut it up to transport it anyway, the "whole bird" argument sort of dissipates!

                                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                                Spatchcocking is different than cutting up. It is a way of keeping the bird whole and insuring a closed-circuit cooking, keeping the juices and flavors inside. And if you play your cards right (I'm sure you do), you get very tasty, juicy results.

                                                    2. I ordered a turkey once from the butcher in Ferney Voltaire when I lived in Geneva. It was for Canadian Thanksgiving in October. He said the farmers get them ready for the US Thanksgiving through New Years period, and he'd have to check his sources. I came back a week later, and all he could find that was ready was a 10 KG white turkey. Just massive, but we had 20 people, so it worked out. He gave me a good price (7euro/KG) and a roasting pan, so I took it. It was highly tasty. I cooked it real slow at about 150-160 with tin foil over it until the last hour or so. I shoved garlic and unpasturized butter under the skin.

                                                      I might have a photo of it somewhere. I'll post it. Keep in mind that Geneva is not far from some serious poultry country (Bresse), but where in France isn't?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Busk

                                                        Actually, dinde de Bresse enjoys quite a reputation.

                                                      2. What specifically Hanukkah dishes did you make? Latkes? Soufganiot?

                                                        It is Hanoucca or Hanouka, in French. The large Sephardic community eats Bunuelos. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bu%C3%B1...

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: lagatta

                                                          Hi. I just came back to this thread. In case you're wondering, you can check out Part 2:
                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/925255
                                                          I did get soufganiot and topped them with pumpkin butter. I also made potato and Brussels sprouts latkes.