When I was growing up in Lyon, France, Thanksgiving wasn’t part of my childhood, but turkeys certainly were. Of all the birds my family raised—we also kept chickens, squab, ducks, and guinea hens—turkeys gave us the most trouble, always flying up into trees and roosting on the highest branches. Once we got them back down, we’d take them to the farmers’ market to sell. The French also like a whole roasted turkey, but it’s served at Christmastime, without a cranberry in sight.
After many years living in New York, when I serve a turkey, it’s in the American style. But if my Thanksgiving table has all the traditional fixings, I still nod, here and there, to France. My stuffing starts with duck fat and is studded with Toulouse sausage and confit turkey gizzards; my apple pie is a tarte tatin. Even my solution to the perennial problem of what to do with all the leftovers has a touch of France in it: I bind turkey and vegetables in a luscious béchamel, brighten this mixture with tarragon, and bake it under a buttery lid of puff pastry.
Turkeys are a bit of a nuisance to farm, but making turkey potpie isn’t difficult. If you don’t have carrots or leeks on hand, feel free to substitute with leftover butternut squash or green beans. Don’t have puff pastry in your freezer? Top the pie with stuffing instead. The great virtue of this dish, in the lazy days following Thanksgiving, is its adaptability.
2 T butter
½ cup flour
5 cups turkey or chicken stock
6 oz. leeks, washed well and cut into ½-inch slices
4 oz. celery, cut into ½-inch pieces
4 oz. carrots, cut into ½-inch pieces
6 oz. mushrooms, quartered
1 lb. turkey, roughly pulled or chopped
1 cup heavy cream
3 sprigs tarragon, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 sprigs parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Make the roux: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter and mix continuously for 3 minutes, until the flour has been fully absorbed and the mixture is thick and bubbly. Transfer the roux into a bowl and set aside in the refrigerator.
Make the filling: In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil over high heat. Plunge the leeks, celery, carrots, and mushrooms into the boiling stock and cook until just tender. Using a strainer, remove the vegetables from the stock and set aside. Add the turkey to the pot, bring the stock back up to a simmer, then remove the turkey and set it aside with the vegetables. Add the cream to the stock, whisk in the cold roux, and bring the mixture back up to a boil. Cook, whisking vigorously, until the mixture is thickened. Remove the pot from the heat and return the vegetables and turkey to the mixture. Stir in the tarragon and parsley and season to taste with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Transfer the contents of the pot to a 2½-quart baking dish or Dutch oven and refrigerate until chilled.
Make the crust: Once the pie filling is fully chilled, remove the puff pastry from the freezer and allow it to thaw just enough to unroll it or remove the plastic. Then use a fluted ring cutter, or any cookie cutter that you wish, to cut out different-sized shapes. Arrange them on top of the pie filling, covering as much of the surface as possible. (A slight overlap is OK.) Return the potpie to the refrigerator, and preheat your oven to 425°F.
Remove the potpie from the refrigerator and lightly brush the beaten egg over the puff pastry. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Lower the temperature again to 325°F and bake for a final 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potpie is bubbling around the edges.
WHAT TO DRINK
“I would choose something delicious but unpretentious, like a rich white Burgundy from the southern Mâconnais. The prestigious Domaine Leflaive in Puligny also produces a lovely Mâcon-Verzé that possesses enough weight for the dish, while its ripping acidity cuts through the richness of the sauce.”—Raj Vaidya, head sommelier, Daniel
This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
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