Eric Ripert’s Thanksgiving Turkey: Two Ways. Yum!

By on November 23, 2011


About 5 years ago, the New York Times challenged Eric Ripert to make a turkey taste good.


Now this was a challenge Chef Ripert was up to.  He started off by buying a great fresh organic bird. then, he took that turkey apart, which immediately solved the problem of the difference in roasting times between light and dark meat.  He cooked the dark meat in an impromptu red wine and vegetable stew, then chopped everything and made cabbage rolls.  These are so good you may decide you could stand to have turkey more than once a year.



Roasting the breast only, and cooking the cabbage rolls in the oven, he achieved nirvana. Moist, flavorful breast meat with a crisp golden skin, and yummy cabbage rolls made with the dark meat and veg.  Yum!  And the sauce made from that red wine is heaven.  Plus you also have stuffing and extra gravy for the mashed potatoes.  I mean, what more could you ask?



I’ve been making a version of Chef’s turkey ever since.  I’ve added a few riffs of my own.  Porcini added to the dark meat gives it that extra umami to the sauce.



I don’t lift the turkey breast out, but rather cut the back end off the turkey leaving the front portion of the back in place to support the turkey breast in the oven.  In this way, I can actually stuff the breast if I wish to (which I usually do) and the whole thing holds up well in the oven.


If you’re challenged by butchery, ask your butcher to separate the turkey for you.  I don’t find it hard to do at all, and I always sharpen the knife before I start.



But the real advantage to me of Chef’s version, is that I can do most of the work in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.


Now don’t say I didn’t tell this, but yes, this is a recipe for died-in-the-wool cooks, who love the ritual and planning for a big celebration.  You probably don’t have all that back-of-the-house help, like Chef does.  So it helps to be able to do most of the work beforehand.


The work starts two or three days before the event, and it helps to have an extra refrigerator. Fortunately for me,  Michael, my yard man, is between apartments and asked if he could leave his refrigerator in my garage.  I said yes, so now I have the luxury of the second refrigerator.  I pick up the turkey from the butcher and place it in the refrigerator.


All you do two days out is cut up the turkey, separate light and dark meat as well as the neck and giblets and begin marinating the dark meat in the red wine.


The day before the holiday, cook the dark meat in the red wine, cool, separate it, chop the meat, and make the cabbage rolls.  Then place the cabbage rolls in a well buttered 9 x 12 inch baking dish and cover and refrigerate until Turkey day.


If you are making stuffing for the breast, make this one day before the holiday too and refrigerate it as well.* See below for Mama’s Cornbread stuffing recipe.


Then, on turkey day, all you have to worry about is roasting the turkey breast – with or without stuffing, and heating the cabbage rolls.  Heat the gravy and you’re good to go.





Eric Ripert’s Turkey Two Ways


Makes 8-10 servings


  • 1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey
  • 2 bottles dry red wine (Chilean Merlot is good)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 small package dried porcini
  • 1 bouquet garni (see note)
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1 large head green Savoy cabbage, cored and leaves separated
  • 1/2 pound butter to grease pan


Two days before Thanksgiving

Cut the leg-thigh and back half of the spine from the carcass. Remove the leg-thigh and back pieces and transfer to a large stainless steel stew pot.  Add the wings, bouquet garni and wine. Cover.  Reserve neck,giblets,  excess skin and fat for stock in a medium saucepan. Cover. Wrap the breast portion in plastic and refrigerate all overnight.


One day before Thanksgiving


Lift the meat and vegetables from the pot, then boil the wine and bouquet garni, skimming off any foam for 15 minutes, reducing it by one-third. Set aside.


Meanwhile, separate the turkey pieces and vegetables. Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Season the meat on both sides with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, add the meat and sear until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes each side. Transfer to a plate.


Add remaining oil to the pot. Add the vegetables and cook until caramelized, sprinkling with a bit of sugar, about 8 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook 2 minutes, until flour turns brown (like making a roux). Add wine and stir to release any browned bits. Return the meat  and bouquet garni to the pot, add chicken stock and simmer until meat falls off the bone, about 2 hours.


Drain legs, thighs and vegetables and strain the liquid through a fine sieve into a saucepan and set aside. Place the vegetables into a bowl. When the turkey is cool enough, remove the meat from the bones and shred into a bowl. Discard skin and bones. Stir in 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid.


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the core out of the cabbage and discard. Add cabbage leaves and cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove leaves and plunge them into ice water; drain. Trim the ends of the tough central rib from the leaves. Place a cabbage leaf on a cutting board (use two if they are small) and place 3 tablespoons of the leg meat and 1 tablespoon of the vegetables at one end. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the sides and roll up like an envelope. Repeat. (You should have about 12 parcels.) Place in a well-buttered baking pan, 9 x 12, seam side down. Cover with foil. (This may all be done one day ahead, then covered and held until you are ready to serve).

On Thanksgiving Day

About 1-1/2 hours before you are ready to serve the Thanksgiving dinner, preheat the  oven to 400° F. Stove top, place a roasting pan over medium-high heat.

Add butter to the hot pan. Season the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. When the butter is sizzling, add the breasts, skin down. Sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Turn the breast side up. Tent loosely with foil  Transfer the pan to the oven and roast breasts to an internal temperature of 145°F., about 45 minutes, basting with the butter every 5 minutes. Remove the tent after about 30 minutes. The skin will be golden brown when done.  Remove and let rest for 25 minutes, under the foil tent. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

To serve, bring reserved liquid to a simmer and cook until the sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon. Heat cabbage rolls in a 350°F. oven for about 20 minutes, or until hot. Slice the breast meat. Place one cabbage roll on each plate and fan out 3 slices of breast on top. Spoon the sauce around and serve.


  • NOTE

To make a bouquet garni, tie together 2 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs and 1 rosemary sprig.

To make gravy,  boil the neck and giblets in a medium saucepan in water with a half stick of celery and onion, until the meat falls off the bone. Remove and separate out the meat and vegetables , chopping it and return it to the pan. Discard skin and bones.  Now mix 2 tablespoons flour with ¼ cup water until its lump-free, then add it to the pan, stirring.  Season to taste with salt and lots of pepper and cook down to a smooth sauce.  Set it aside until serving time.  Place it in a gravy boat and pass, garnished with fresh herbs.

To make  Mama’s cornbread and biscuit stuffing: The day before the event, make a pan of corn bread and a pan of biscuits.  Cool and break up with your hands.  Then finely chop an entire bunch of celery, leaves and all,  one onion, two garlic, few sage leaves, and add to the bread.  You can add cooked and crumbled Italian sausage, pecans, or mushrooms, or other filly-loo things if you wish.  For me?  I keep it simple  Great biscuit and corn bread,  wonderfully aromatic celery and onion, fresh sage, and a box of chicken stock.  I may throw in a tablespoon or so of dried poultry seasoning, and a generous amount of cracked pepper, but that’s it.  I stuff the turkey breast with this, putting the remainder into a baking dish.  Bake the whole thing at the same time as you’re cooking the cabbage rolls.

Now you have every single thing you need for a fabulous Thanksgiving.

Thanks Eric.

About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”