25 December 2006

Turkey Day

I wasn't sure I wanted to post anything about Christmas this year. I'm not a scrooge, but I think a lot of people, including myself, are not that interested in either organized religion (my beliefs are none of your business) or the commercialism that Christmas has come to embody in the Western world. But as you might imagine, I do like the gastronomical aspects of the winter holidays!

On French TV this morning, I heard a report saying that polls show that only 12% of French people view Christmas as a religious holiday. At the same time, 90% of the French see Christmas a a family celebration.

The French are big advocates of family values — in the real sense of the term. Our summer neighbors who live in Blois have all their children and grandchildren in for Christmas dinner. There are 35 of them in all.

Last year I posted some pictures of the Christmas decorations in Saint-Aignan. The same ones are out this year. And here's a posting dated Christmas Eve 2005 with some more pictures of Saint-Aignan at this time of the year. Plus another with a French Santa Claus climbing up the side of a building.

So here it is, Christmas Day 2006. We are cooking a turkey. At Thanksgiving, we had a leg of lamb, because we prefer lamb to turkey, so why not? Besides, it's not easy to get a turkey in November in France, since there's no holiday in November here. Turkey is traditional Christmas fare in France, however. Some people cook a goose, or a capon, instead.

The turkey from Intermarché looked kind of purple, but it turned white
as soon as I lowered it into the poaching liquid.
It weighs about seven pounds (3.25 kg).

I bought a turkey at the supermarket this year. Two years ago, we ordered one from a butcher shop in Saint-Aignan. It was delicious, but it was very expensive. This year, the Intermarché supermarket had ready-to-cook turkeys on sale about ten days ago, so I bought one at put it in the freezer to keep.

We have friends from California coming for Christmas dinner this afternoon, along with a couple of British friends who live down the road. In France, the big meal is normally eaten on Christmas Eve, so not many people will be gorging themselves on fine foods today. Instead, they will be recovering from last night's feast while we are ... eating. We will try to be reasonable.

Cornbread stuffing from a recipe in the American Joy of Coooking book.
It includes chopped and "sweated" onions, celery, and garlic,
along with red and green bell peppers from our garden.

The menu includes cornbread stuffing which I made yesterday and will re-heat in the oven before we sit down at the table; a purée of butternut squash (which we grew in our garden last summer); brussels sprouts with chestnuts that our British friends are brings; and desserts.

I'm poaching the turkey. Poaching is a method I've used very successfully with ducks over the past two years, so I'm hoping it will be good. It's supposed to make the turkey juicy and evenly cooked.

The turkey in its poaching liquid with carrots, leeks,
onions, garlic, bay leaves, and spices.

First I made a vegetable broth: a couple of carrots, some onions, some celery stalks, a few cloves of garlic, and plenty of bay leaves. Then I added a couple of whole cloves (clous de girofle), some black peppercorns, and some sea salt. When the liquid reached the boil, I carefully lowered the turkey into the pot and turned the heat down so it is cooking at the barest simmer. I'll let it poach for a couple of hours. It's important not to let it boil, evidently.

Once the turkey is poached, I'll baste it with fat — melted butter, duck fat, or olive oil would be good — and then put it in the oven for 30 minutes or so to let it brown and dry out just a little. I think I'll use melted butter this time. For duck cooked this way, I've always used duck fat.

Our holiday desserts will include two especially English ones: Christmas pudding and mince pie. Our British friends are bringing those. Meanwhile, Walt is making a chocolate Yule log. I'm sure he will take pictures.

I just took the turkey out of the poaching liquid. I think it is very well cooked after only about 90 minutes of poaching.

This is the poached turkey. It still needs to be brushed with butter
and browned in a hot oven for 30 minutes or so before it's served.

Happy winter festivities to all. Don't eat too much!


  1. Happy winter festivities to all. Don't eat too much!

    I already did! ;)
    Happy Holidays

  2. Making a blog list for Christmas including "Turkey Day"...yep, making a list and checking it twice! Your meal looks so good, folks need to find it for more cooking inspiration!

    Meilleurs voeux...now and for the new year!!

  3. I read, on another post, that you receive email for comments written even today for posts of the past. Let me try.

    Thank you for sending me to Noël 06. I have never poached a turkey. I intend to try. Also your cornmeal stuffing. It looks very good. You did not put the quantities of this-and-that but I'm confident I can juggle it. I cook turkey breast quite often, 2 at a time. My son loves the meal. And the left-over!


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