Thanksgiving in Paris is like Bastille Day in the United States: an ordinary weekday that tradition has turned into a day to celebrate with family, friends, great food and great wine. If you are lucky enough to be in Paris during this holiday, preparation is key, as you need to plan ahead and order your turkey from the butcher a few days in advance.
What I love about most boucherie (butchers) in Paris is that it’s not just during holiday season when you’ll pass by a rotisserie filled with golden birds. Butchers here have large rotisseries that stand on the sidewalk, with fat plump organic chickens roasting all day long, any day of the week. These chickens can be selected for immediate consumption, or you may reserve one to pick up on the way home. The butcher marks your pick with a numbered metal pin (e.g., No. 5) and voila, your succulent meal awaits. On Thanksgiving, you will see large turkeys roasting, on the rotisserie, perfectly cooked to a golden crisp brown. Indeed, the butcher will know knows exactly from which farm the turkey (dinde) will come., Better yet, the celebrated bird will be neither frozen nor shrink wrapped in plastic. Most butchers will even roast the turkey for you, provided you specify exactly when you want to pick it up. Most butchers are closed 1-3, so you will need to pick up before or after the lunch hour closing. My favorite butchers are on Rue de Grenelle, including the acclaimed Maison Kermorvant (197 Rue de Grenelle). While the knee-jerk desire to want to roast your bird at home may be hard to shake, there are practical reasons why to have your butcher is the man for the job—most French ovens are not big enough to house a large bird for your Thanksgiving feast. Some butchers will even providing stuffing for your turkey, as well as the turkey stock and drippings for your perfect gravy or demi-glace.
Parisian Novembers also happen to be perfect for traditional Thanksgiving side dishes. Squash, carrots, pumpkin, chestnuts, sage, mushrooms, thyme, brussel sprouts are all in season. One of my favorite places to shop for my Thanksgiving feast is on Rue Cler, where Julia Child shopped and prepared for her Thanksgiving while she lived in Paris. Jeusselin sells the best foie gras in Paris, and you can also buy other prepared items such as roasted potatoes or gratin daphinois (like scalloped potatoes, but better). Next door is Nicolas, vendor of wines and champagne. Nearby, La Fromagerie and Marie Ann Cantin offer fresh cheeses and a few quality vegetable and fruit stands also line the block. Furthermore,Rue Cler is home to Roger, one of the best boucherie in Paris, with a poissonerie , where fresh oysters, lobster (live or cooked), and shrimp – including prepared platters – can be sold with some notice.
If you want to cheat, across from boucherie Maison Kermorvant on Rue de Grenelle is Picard, a store that sells gourmet frozen food. Items that can be purchased at Picard include pumpkin soup, foie gras, appetizers in a glass (duck with mango, scallops and sausage, salmon with wasabi and granny smith apples), roasted rack of lamb, macarons, chocolate tart and an unreal selection of real top notch desserts. Don’t worry, Parisian women are known to shop at Picard for dinner under the guise they spent days cooking. (I have even seen small restaurants cart in boxes of frozen Picard items to sell to diners.)
If you really feel the need to buy American products, like Jell-O, stuffing, pumpkin spiced filling for pie, and other “delicacies” La Grande Epicerie , Thanksgiving in Le Marais, or the Real McCoy or good options to source products.
If you cannot make dinner, Joe Allen’s in Paris has a special menu on Thanksgiving. Reservations are recommended. As Thanksgiving is not a holiday in France, all stores are open during normal hours, which makes shopping a little easier. And so, Thanksgiving in Paris can remain the holiday Americans hold dear, with the only drama stemming for finishing those few bottles of good wine with friends late into the evening. But isn’t that what makes it special?