Thanksgiving always brings with it a healthy dose of nostalgia, and this year, I’m feeling the passage of time with particular edge. My friend and mentor, Anne Willan, has just published her memoirs under the title of One Soufflé At A Time: A Memoir of Food and France. The story begins in 1975 with the opening of La Varenne, Anne’s cooking school in Paris. And I was there at the beginning. Yikes!
Anne may not have the name recognition of the latest Food Network diva these days, but if you came of age in the 1970s and 80s and you loved food, there was no other place on earth you wanted to be more than in class at La Varenne. If Julia Child inspired the first generation of Americans to dream about French cuisine, Anne got them on a plane to learn how to do it Paris.
Which brings me in a roundabout way to the 2013 Raichlen Thanksgiving menu.
French turkeys are leaner than their American counterparts—and were even more so back then. One of the coolest techniques I learned at La Varenne was stuffing the bird under the skin with thin slices of pork fat and truffles. It was sort of cool and sort of gross: you wormed one finger between the skin and breast meat at the neck, then a second finger, loosening the skin from the meat. You continued, gently and carefully, until you hand inserted your whole hand, loosening the skin from the breast, thighs, and legs, taking care not to tear the skin. Then you inserted bards du lard, thin slices of French salt pork (fattier than its American counterpart), and jet-black disks of truffle. Truffle, you’ll recall, is an incredibly aromatic—and incredibly expensive—subterranean fungus. Together, they made the meat supernaturally moist and flavorful.
In fact, it’s the memory of that turkey that led me to team up with my pals Amy and Thierry Farges to create a Planet Barbecue Truffle Grilling Butter (no pork fat needed).
Amy and Thierry’s truffle butter is also available at select Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores under the brand name of Aux Delices des Bois.
Grill the turkey using the indirect method, basting well with the pan juices.
Here are the highlights of the Raichlen menu for Thanksgiving, 2013:
Does your family’s Thanksgiving menu have a live-fire twist? We’d love to hear about it—send photos and details to the Barbecue Board.
Yours in righteous grilling,
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