French Chef Puts Spin On Thanksgiving Dinner

Chef Dominique Crenn i i

hide captionChef Dominique Crenn, raised in Versailles, France, makes an incredible Thanksgiving dinner with a special French flair.

Dominique Cren
Chef Dominique Crenn

Chef Dominique Crenn, raised in Versailles, France, makes an incredible Thanksgiving dinner with a special French flair.

Dominique Cren

Chef Dominique Crenn was raised in Versailles, France. She now makes an incredible Thanksgiving dinner, but when she first came to the U.S., the entire holiday threw her off.

She sat down with NPR's Steve Inskeep to discuss how she cooks for Thanksgiving.

"I was a little bit lost when I came here," she told Inskeep. "I had no idea what Thanksgiving was about."

In France, turkey is eaten at Christmas. So the American phenomenon of Thanksgiving turkey and dressing mystified her.

"Oh, a month before Christmas, we're gonna eat Turkey?"

But now, she's hooked. Crenn has been celebrating Thanksgiving for about 20 years. "This is a pretty cool holiday," she said.

She makes her turkey-day feast with flair. She described how she cooks the bird:

"Do a roulade with the breast. Open up the breast, stuff it, roll it, then tie it."

Crenn stuffs the turkey with mushroom, truffle or foie gras. Then she wraps it in bacon. Next, she cures the legs, then confits them with duck fat.

"I like slow cooking," she said. Her turkeys are cooked between 160 and 200 degrees. "I don't do it at high temperatures. ... You kill the animal once; you don't want to kill it twice."

For sides, Crenn serves up roasted chestnuts and Brussels sprout leaves, picked and sauteed.

As for dessert: "I will maybe do something a little bit different than a pumpkin pie."

Dominique Crenn's Turkey 'Roulade' And Legs Confit

Serves 4

Turkey 'Roulade'

2 whole boneless turkey breasts

1/4 pound sliced smoked pancetta

1 pound wild mushrooms

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1 tablespoon of minced shallots

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme

2 tablespoons of Madeira wine

1/2 of crumbled sage bread (without the crust)

4 ounces of winter truffles

Kitchen twine


1. Saute the wild mushrooms with the garlic, shallots and thyme. Once soft, deglaze with the Madeira wine, let cool, and then mix in a bowl with the sage bread and sliced truffles.

2. Butterfly the turkey breasts and lay a piece of pancetta under each. Stuff the breasts with the mushrooms stuffing. Roll turkey breasts up and secure with kitchen twine, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Sear both sides of the roulade lightly on the stove in a hot pan. Remove turkey roulades from the pan and transfer them to a baking sheet. Cover with foil and cook about 45 minute to 1 hour, or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. When cooked, let the meat rest for 10 minutes before serving. (Warm if necessary in oven with a bit of stock to keep meat moist).

Confit Turkey Legs

2 turkey legs

1 branch of fresh oregano

1 branch of fresh sage

1 teaspoon of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt

2 tubs of rendered duck (ask your butcher)


1. Hand-crush all the herbs together, and then rub the spice blend all over the turkey legs. Sprinkle legs generously with salt and black pepper. Chill overnight uncovered in the refrigerator.

2. The next day, remove the legs from the spice cure and dry the legs with a paper towel. Transfer the legs to a deep baking sheet.

3. Heat oven to 225 degrees and heat the duck fat slowly over a bain-marie. When a liquid consistency of the duck fat is achieved, pour it over the turkey legs. Cover pan with foil. Confit the legs in the oven for about 6 hours. Remove from the oven and store in the fat in the refrigerator.

4. When ready to serve, warm the turkey legs with the fat in a 400-degree oven. Once warmed through, remove the legs from the fat and keep the duck fat for other use, being sure to strain it before using.

5. In a hot cast iron pan, crisp the skin of the legs before placing the pan in a 400-degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached.

To plate:

Slice the roulade thinly and place attractively on a platter. Place each turkey leg on the platter on either side and serve.



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