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Pigging Out on Turkey

It’s only one week away — Americans’ favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. We all look forward to it, don’t we?…more than even all those religious holidays where one can get awfully depressed if we’re not with our family and closest friends. And besides, those are religious and while filled with ‘good cheer’ — lots of eating and drinking and merriment — somehow they aren’t centered around that old-fashioned idea of just saying thanks for all we have and of course…PIGGING OUT.

Barb Westfield  ready for dinner - Ansouis, FranceBarb Westfield ready for dinnerFor the last three years I’ve had the pleasure of sharing Thanksgiving with American friends in their beautiful Provençal home lit with luscious scented candles, a fire roaring in the huge ancient fireplace, decorated with elegant warm taste and a table filled with all the fixin’s that the country markets and the chefs of the house could muster up. Like clockwork, we’d take the train to Aix-en-Provence on Wednesday, rent a car and drive to the village of Ansouis, then spend the next two days visiting Provence, our friends and PIGGING OUT on French turkey.

 Adrian's French turkey - Paris, FranceAdrian’s French turkeyDeep Fried Turkey - Photo by Times Picayune, New OrleansDeep Fried Turkey – Photo by Times PicayuneTujagues restaurant - New OrleansA big bowl of boiled crawfish - New OrleansA big bowl of boiled crawfish

If you have never had the pleasure of a French turkey, this is something every American should experience. According to Bryan Newman of BehindtheFrenchMenu.blogspot, the first turkey to arrive in France was the domesticated Mexican turkey, and that was in the 16th century, however, the turkeys on most French menus are descended from a different bird to those on most North American and U.K. menus. In actuality, the French birds are bigger, but with less densely formed meat, darker, gamier and therefore juicier. A French bird costs a small fortune and takes half the time to cook, perhaps because of the difference in the density of the meat.

You really don’t want to know about how turkeys are raised in the U.S. for slaughter for PIGGING OUT on Thanksgiving. These are intelligent creatures, actually, who can live up to 10 years, but are killed at five or six months for our dining pleasure. It might spoil your appetite to know that they are genetically bred to grow as fast as possible and the multitude of horrors they undergo before they land crisp, brown and pretty on our Thanksgiving tables.

I must admit shamefully, this has never stopped me from carving into the beautiful flesh or munching on a big crispy wing. According to Dinde.fr, domestic turkeys in France live in barns or large buildings that meet sanitary rules and hygiene standards with outdoor runs, food and drinking at will. “Red Label” organically grown birds fed solely organic agricultural products are slower growing and have access to a wide grassy path where pesticides are often prohibited. At night, they sleep in barns, then sealed to prevent the entry of predators. The density is one bird per 23 square feet compared to one bird per 3.5 square feet in the U.S.!

No wonder French turkeys are so expensive — 7.65 euros per kilogram for a turkey of 12 to 15 kilos. Translation: at today’s rate of exchange, that’s about $4.35 per pound for a 26 to 33 pound turkey, or $113 to $144 for that bird that you’re about to carve and serve up! I know. It’s outrageous, but the truth is, it’s well worth it!

This year I’m heading to New Orleans to be with my family for Thanksgiving. Rather than a Cajun deep fried turkey, which is a traditional treat in the Big Easy (Photo by Brett Duke, Nola.com, The Times-Picayune), we’ve reserved a table in a private room at Tujague’s, the city’s second oldest restaurant. It just happens to be our cousins’ establishment and a long-time tradition for my family, dating back to even before the Latter Family took it over in 1982. They will be serving up turkey for sure, but along with a multitude of courses of their own specialities and we are sure to be PIGGING OUT.

Meanwhile, one of my sisters is ‘torturing’ me pre-flight to New Orleans on Saturday by sending photos of the things I love most to eat there — like fresh boiled Cajun crawfish — just to whet my appetite for what is in store for a week of PIGGING OUT. And no offense, but that’s gotten me way more excited than turkey!

Special note:

Susan Herrmann LoomisSusan Herrmann LoomisChef Susan Herrmann Loomis of On Rue Tatin fame is cooking up turkey on the evening of Thursday, November 27th during a special Parisian Thanksgiving cooking class, where she and her lucky students will braise, mash, infuse, whisk, slice, mince and enjoy their way to a familiar yet “très, très” French Thanksgiving dinner. There will be turkey with most of the trimmings to delight the senses, yet it won’t be roasted, nor stuffed. Instead, it will be presented as a tasty tower, seasoned with fresh rosemary, a hint of lemon zest, a whisper of cream and garlic. This will be set on a bed of the most gorgeous mashed potatoes, and garnished with crisp leaves of Brussels sprouts and shards of Belgian endive. Starters? Beets and squash, in two different and delectable combinations that remain my secret, and which will inspire you. As for dessert, chestnuts will team with honey, chocolate, and a touch of vanilla, for a very special finale.

Don’t miss this special class and opportunity to eat a French turkey! Thursday, November 27, 2014, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. 250€/person in a Saint-Germain-des Prés cooking atelier, includes a three hour cooking class, full lovely meal, with wine and all the fixings. Book now! Email [email protected].

A la prochaine,

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group - with the Thanksgiving turkeyAdrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

(with the Thanksgiving turkey)

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Paris Linked Up for BeginnersP.S.
Thanks to author Colleen Katz for her mention of Parler Paris Apartments in her new book “Paris Linked Up For Beginners.”

“Parler Paris Apartments. If you watch House Hunters International, you will know the name Adrian Leeds, the American entrepreneur living in Paris who has become an HGTV personality dealing in real estate sales and rentals. Remember the newlyweds from Queens, New York, who bought and renovated in the Marais (3rd Arr.)? It’s now a beauty called Le Beau Marais on the Web site. View all the rentals to see just how attractive they are. Minimum stay of 4 nights required.”

P.P.S. Plan your getaway for a few days in the sunny south of France and you can now rent any of our bright, comfortable and luxurious Parler Nice Apartments for a minimum of just 3 nights. For more information visit Parler Nice Apartments or email [email protected]

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