A Thanksgiving Dinner That Longs for France

3. Wash and prepare the vegetables and aromatics. Scrape dirt from carrots, but don’t peel. Pluck a handful of leaves from celery, and c...

3. Wash and prepare the vegetables and aromatics. Scrape dirt from carrots, but don’t peel. Pluck a handful of leaves from celery, and combine with remaining rosemary, plus thyme and parsley, place between 2 celery stalks, and bind with twine to make a bouquet garni. Roughly chop remaining celery.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Set a large oven-proof casserole pot over medium-high heat. Brush salt and herbs from turkey legs. Add oil to the pot followed by one turkey leg (it should sizzle), and cook, untouched, until the meat is thoroughly browned. Flip the leg—I use a flexible slotted spatula to get under the skin in case it sticks. Brown all sides, then remove from pan and set aside. Repeat with other leg. Add carrot, celery, onion, and shallot, and brown lightly.

6. Add bouquet garni to the pot, then pour in the red wine and bring to a boil. Put the legs back in, then add the reduced brown chicken stock. You want the liquid to rise a little higher than halfway up the legs. Add bay leaves and juniper berries, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat until liquid simmers; don’t boil. After 5 minutes, put pot in the oven, uncovered. Cook for 10 minutes, then cover pot and reduce heat to 250 degrees. After 30 minutes, confirm that liquid is not boiling and turn the legs over. Repeat at 30-minute intervals, checking liquid and turning legs, until the meat comes easily off the bone, 2 to 3 hours.

The author hard at work.

7. Carefully remove the legs and set aside. Remove bouquet garni and vegetables and discard. Strain braising liquid into a saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, skim, then reduce to a simmer, skimming every now and then if needed, until reduced by half. Taste, seasoning if necessary. Too salty? Whisk in butter. Too meaty? Add a splash of red wine or red-wine vinegar. Set aside. Just before the meal, pour the braised liquid back into the pot and reheat, without boiling, and carefully add turkey legs. Once warm, plate them and dress with sauce, serving the rest alongside.

Brown Chicken Stock

In a basic chicken stock, you put raw bones (carcass, legs, necks, wings, etc.) into a pot, add vegetables, cover with water, and simmer. A brown stock involves roasting the bones before you start. It is seen to be fussier—the roasting takes about an hour, and then there is the pan to clean—but it produces a considerably deeper flavor, a beautiful dark autumnal color, and more gelatin, which gives the sauces you make with it more body—more wobble. It intensifies wonderfully when you reduce it.


  • 2 onions
  • A handful each of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley
  • 6 stalks celery
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 5 thin slices, 1 to 2 inches long
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 7 pounds chicken bones and carcass, plus (optional) neck and back of turkey
  • A spoonful (or two) of honey
  • A few splashes white wine



1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a large roasting pan on the middle rack.

2. Set a sauté pan over low heat, without fat or oil. Peel and halve onions. Place each half, cut-side down, in pan and leave to brown slowly. After 5 minutes, peek underneath one; if there is no color, increase heat. Once onions are thoroughly browned (10 minutes? 20? The more slowly done, the better), carefully remove and set aside. Browned, the onions have a deeper flavor and will strengthen the color of the sauce.

3. Make a bouquet garni of the herbs and 2 of the celery stalks and bind with twine. Roughly chop the remaining 4 stalks. Place celery, bouquet garni, onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, and bay leaf in a large pot.

4. With a meat cleaver or heavy knife, roughly chop bird bones. No big deal if you skip this step, but chopping the bones exposes marrow and more bone surface, which yields more flavor when roasted. Add chopped bones to heated roasting pan. (If it’s hot enough, you won’t need fat or oil.) Roast until bones are browned on the bottom, 15 to 30 minutes, and then flip, using a flexible spatula to lift the pieces off the pan without losing the browned skin. Repeat regularly until bones are almost thoroughly cooked. Brush larger bones with honey, for color and caramelization. Continue to brown, but with care—if the bones burn, they are useless. Remove bones and add them to the pot, atop the vegetables.

5. Deglaze the roasting pan by placing it over high heat, pouring in white wine to cover, bringing to a boil, and scraping up browned bits from the bottom. Reduce to about 4 tablespoons. Pour through a strainer or a sieve into pot with chicken bones and vegetables. (If the pan or the reduction smell burned, skip this step.)

6. Fill pot with enough water to cover bones. Set over high heat and bring almost to a boil, then turn heat to the lowest setting and skim. After 5 minutes, the liquid should be less than simmering. You want no bubbles, only a vapor. Continue to cook gently over low heat for 10 hours, or overnight, skimming occasionally, topping up as needed.

7. Pour the brown chicken stock through a sieve into a new pot, set over medium heat, and reduce slowly, by at least half. (You can reduce by more—the result will gain in intensity—but insure that you have at least 5 cups for both the Madeira sauce and the braising liquid for the legs.) Strain into a bowl. Once completely cool, refrigerate.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Madeira Sauce

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Newsrust: A Thanksgiving Dinner That Longs for France
A Thanksgiving Dinner That Longs for France
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