Here a Turkey, There a Dinde

  • Turkey isn't just for Thanksgiving, it's for Christmas too!

    Turkey isn't just for Thanksgiving, it's for Christmas too!

    © Elsie Hui

  • The holidays are a time for friends, family and good food!

    The holidays are a time for friends, family and good food!

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Cédric Helsly

Here a Turkey, There a Dinde

As fall winds down and the holidays approach, our minds naturally turn to the delicious meals in the days to come. In the U.S., turkeys are traditionally eaten for Thanksgiving, but they also hold a special place on French tables.

Turkeys were actually imported to Europe by Spanish colonizers in Mexico. When the conquistadors first landed, they believed they had sailed to India, so the bird, brought back to France, was originally called poule de l'Inde (chicken of India), eventually shortened to the dinde currently in use. (The dinde goes glou glou.)

Back then, it was traditional to eat fowl for holidays and celebrations, and when the turkey was introduced to France, it became popular as an "exotic" bird. Today, France is the second largest producer of turkeys in the world, and turkey has become a customary dish for Christmas.

The following recipe is for a traditional stuffed turkey. Usually it would be eaten at Noël, but it works perfectly for Thanksgiving too!

Stuffed Turkey with Caramelized Onions

Brining: 48 h
Preparation time: 1h15
Cooking time: 4 h
Serves: 12

Ingredients:

16 lb. turkey

Brine

  • 2 gal. of water
  • ¾ cup salt
  • 1 cup natural brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Stuffing

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • ¼ lb. chopped bacon
  • 2 apples, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • cheesecloth, 4 layers thick, large enough to cover the turkey breast, moistened

Trimmings

  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into large pieces
  • 2 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • 6 large red onions, peeled and cut in half crosswise
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Get a 4-gallon pot or pail in which to place the turkey. Keep it chilled.

To make the brine, mix the sugar, pepper, salt and cinnamon in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve, then add a cup of cold water to cool the mixture before pouring it over the turkey. Cover the turkey with water and leave to soak overnight, refrigerated.

Once you're ready to start on the turkey, remove it from the water and pat dry with paper towels. Preheat the oven to 325° and move the rack to the lowest rung.

Mix the stuffing ingredients together in a large bowl and keep chilled.

Loosen the skin of the breast and legs without tearing it, so that you can spread the applesauce evenly under the skin. Your fingers and a brush or spoon might work best to accomplish this.

Fill the turkey with the stuffing, then tie or toothpick the legs together. Brush it with butter and cover the breast with the damp cheesecloth.

Arrange the carrots and celery evenly around the bottom of a large roasting pan, then pour in the chicken broth. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables and arrange the onions in a ring around it. Drizzle the vinegar over the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then put it in the oven to roast for 2 ½ hours.

At that time, take off the cheesecloth and continue cooking about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until you get a reading of 180° on a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh, or until the meat hangs loosely on the bones. Make sure there are always about 2 cups of liquid in the bottom of the pan, adding more broth if necessary. You can cover smaller parts of the turkey, like the wings, with aluminum foil if they begin to cook too quickly.

When it's done, you can save the broth as gravy, or pour it over mashed potatoes!

Recipe adapted from ricardocuisine.com