Turkey Melon

turkey melon

Not long ago, I mentioned the Lamb Melons I saw at a butcher stand at the Marché d’Anvers in Paris. Since it’s an afternoon market, I thought it might be fun to mosey over there at my leisure and pick one up for Sunday lunch. However I was surprised to see the market completely packed. Since there are less than a few dozen stands, it’s not surprising I suppose. Plus we had a holiday weekend ahead of us.

french radishesAnvers French market Paris
potato chipscherry tomatoes

I did my usual quick scan of everything and found the produce selection rather limited, although there were a few interesting things here and there. I picked up a musty-looking Selles–sur-Cher goat cheese from a woman who makes her own goat cheeses, and each one was sold by how ‘ripe’ you want it.

goat cheese

She wisely had a sample for people to taste, and although I didn’t take a bite – since I knew from the looks of things that I already wanted one – her marketing paid off since it was impossible not to buy one if you lopped off a piece and tried it.

pain d'epicesselles-sur-cher cheese
strawberriesroasted potatoes

I was also surprised/delighted to find jars of buckwheat honey produced in France (much of the buckwheat honey one finds comes from elsewhere) from a man who also had formidable loaves of pain d’épice piled in a basket. And being France, there were plenty of gorgeous potatoes, a well-stocked charcuterie stand, and a few baskets of spring berries here and there.

But I was there for another kind of fruit, the melon, and unlike the other stands, the line at the butcher stand was very long. The wait was only about ten minutes, but if the man in front of me wasn’t puffing on a stinky cigar, and the wind wasn’t carrying it precisely in my direction, it probably would not have felt like an eternity.

Anvers Market

I had arrived at the market around 5pm, just a couple of hours after it opened, and there was only one melon d’agneau left. And getting a closer look at it now, I realized it was impossibly huge. Yet next to it were “melons” of chicken and turkey which were more reasonably sized, such as a chicken Orloff one topped with a fistful of grated cheese, which also looked enormous. But since I was only entertaining a crowd of deux, I chose turkey (€24).

In France, people seem to eat le dinde (turkey) reluctantly. It’s just not that popular, which I think could be attributed to the fact that lean meats traditionally weren’t so much in favor in France until recently. And to a greater extent, turkey just doesn’t take on the mythic proportions to the French like it does to Americans. You only see whole turkeys at the volaillers around the winter holidays, along with ducks, geese, and other game, and although if you get a whole turkey from a good source in France, it’s really marvelous, in ten years of living in France, no one – to the best of my recollection – has ever gotten excited to see turkey on a menu.

French goat cheeseAnvers market paris
charcuterieMelon de dinde recipe

So, of course, when I excitedly brought my melon de dinde home, the first words I heard were – “Je deteste le dinde.”

turkey melon

When I was paying her, I asked the butchers wife how to cook the melon. She kind of paused for a moment, and said, “You haven’t cooked one before?” – with a bit of surprise in her voice. Her husband, with his red-smeary apron and cleaver in hand, also took a sudden interest, and both gave advice that I wasn’t expecting to hear: The “melon” isn’t roasted, but cooked in a casserole or cocotte for about an hour-and-a-half.

turkey melon

“So I guess I add some liquid to the pot as well, too?” I replied. And she rocked her head from side-to-side, as French people often do when questioned something seems evident, but they need a moment to think about it, and told me that the recipe is actually printed on the wrapping paper since it’s their specialty, they told me.

turkey melon

turkey melon

Although I prefer roasting meat, especially if the results entail crispy bacon, I took their sage advice, but decided to go off in my own direction, and put my ‘melon’ in a pot with some wine, a few chopped shallots, thyme branches, quartered mushrooms, then let ‘er rip in the oven for about an hour-and-a-half. The kitchen smelled pretty good toward the end of baking and I was optimistic. Once I poked it to assure it was close to done, I removed it from the oven and let it stand. Then after about twenty minutes, I lifted the lid off the steaming pot and there was my turkey melon, and lunch.

turkey melon

It was a little challenging to cut into wedges, but once it was sliced and served, who got the last laugh (as usual…) when it was – absolutely delicious!

The turkey was moist and flavorful, the bacon was slightly crisp, fatty, and added just the right amount of smokiness to the lean meat. And the grainy mustard smeared in the center melted when it hit the hot liquid which I was wrestling with the beast to slice it, creating something resembling an instant sauce. The whole thing was just brilliant.

The actual printed recipe called for tomatoes and a small pot of crème fraîche, but I’m not big on rich creamy sauces and prefer just le jus with roasted meats and poultry. And while eating it, although it was excellent, next time I have a group for dinner – a group larger than two – I’m going to give the melon d’agneau (lamb) a try.

turkey and broccoli coconut tapioca pudding

We wound our Sunday lunch down with glasses of vin du Jura, a round of wonderful cheese, and finished on an unusual note with Coconut-Tapioca Pudding (from R4D) topped with cubes of ripe mango and some toasted coconut. And then a long nap.



Boucherie Warin

Marché d’Anvers (Friday 3-8:30pm)

[Based on the information on their packaging, the butcher is also at the Saxe-Breteuil (7th) market Thursday and Saturday mornings, and the Saint-Eustache (1st) market –Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning.]



Related Posts and Links

A Visit to Rungis

The Barbès Market

Ficelage épaule agneau (Video, cutting and tying lamb shoulder into “melon”, in French)

Désosser et ficeler une épaule d’agneau en melon (Step-by-step photos of cutting and tying lamb shoulder into melon, with French text)

Les tomates

Victor Churchill Butcher Shop

Marché de Producteurs

80 comments

  • Oh this looks quite fun! The village next to our place in France, Jaligny-sur-Besbre, is the ‘Capitale de la Dinde’ and they give a turkey to the French president each year, as well as having given one to the Queen and Winston Churchill! Its on the menu quite regularly out there. Just goes to show that real rural France is still a world away from the cities!
    xxx

    • I think in a lot of ways, chicken (and turkey) are more associated with home cooking, rather than something people order in restaurants. When I’ve bought whole fresh turkeys in France, they’ve been really, really good. Although the filets and breast pieces you buy are usually dry and ordinary – hence their reputation.

  • David, did you really pay 24 euros for your turkey melon or was that a typo error? It is a novel way to serve turkey, but the price seems too high to make it worthwhile!

    • Yes, that was the price. Food prices are pretty high in Paris for a number of things, although this would feed 6 people generously (perhaps 8) – so although it seems on the high side, considering also the amount of work & skill that went into making it (and how good it was), that seemed appropriate. The lamb ones are a few euros more per kilo.

  • So glad you went back to get a meat melon to try at home… was so curious about what it would be like inside. Glad it was as good as you’d hoped. Might you go back for a lamb one when next entertaining a larger number?
    Wish I could find such creative meat fun here in London!
    x

  • A meat melon, forgive me, is a new one on me.. Wish you could expand on the process that creates such an animal….

  • Thanks for the follow-up on the melons. I’m happy to hear it was worth the try. I lived in Geneva in the early 80′s and it was hard to find a turkey in the stores…only at Thanksgiving time just for the Americans. I bought a 20# one and it only ” just fit” into my tiny oven! I invited my neighborhood chef(cafe owner) and his family for the Thanksgiving meal with all the fixin’s.

  • Oh my Goodness! It looks absolutly gorgeous! Here in Germany we don’t have such an elaborated lamb dish. Of course, I know the deficiencies of german food, don’t think I’m not aware of that LOL. But we have in the Metzgerei (Butcher specialist) something that’s already spiced and marinated and it’s called Sauerbraten. You just put it in a casserole for 3 hours so the meat is tender and fertig! But it has been a real piece of work of adaptation to integrate myself into the german cuisine rather into their unbreakable rules. Coming from Mexico where food is the center of life, full of colors, tastes and colors, I have to tell you that after 3 years here I found MOST of the food boring. At least I brought some life to my kitchen and opened my german friends eyes and mouths with some different dishes (not only mexican of course) with what I can find of ingredients here. So, reading your blog makes me day dream that I will go to the market and find something like this!

  • Here in the Charente, we’d not do it in a cocotte. Just pop it in a cold oven, switch on to 180C, and leave for ~50 minutes. Then rest for 10 minutes.

  • So glad you tried one! My boyfriend and I were left wondering about these… I wonder if you’ll try your own variation of a meat melon.

  • Well, thanks for buying one of those melons and showing us what it looked like once cooked!
    I’d like to know what is that strange wooly stuff in the picture on top of the picture of the potatoes and diagonally opposite the picture of the strawberries. Is it some kind of cheese?

  • I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your melon adventure! And I know exactly what you mean about the French ‘shake of the head.’ Too funny. The melon still seems slightly ridiculous just because it’s a ball of meat, but it looks delicious!

  • Turkey melons should be available in the USA for Thanksgiving. We don’t always have to feed 40 on the day!

  • That looks great. Several times, I’ve wondered back to your previous “melon” post, wondering if you were going give us an update on how the thing tastes. It looks as beautiful inside as outside!

  • I wonder how many Americans get excited when they see turkey on a menu? It’s part of our holiday tradition and is seen on many a magazine cover every November but other than the local “Hof Brau” I rarely see it on restaurant menus. On the other hand, turkey is a pretty popular choice for sandwiches year round.

    • Yes, you’re right that turkey – on both sides of the Atlantic – doesn’t always inspire a lot of enthusiasm. But you can get whole turkeys pretty easily all year ’round in the US, so folks there do eat them more than they do here. At Thanksgiving, judging from the frenzy (and crazy prices) for whole turkeys in Paris, we Americans do have a stronger tradition with le dinde than the French. At least in November! : )

  • I second the suggestion to bring turkey melons to the US! I’d much rather serve something like this at my small Thanksgiving dinner than either a giant turkey or an overpriced and unimpressive turkey breast.

  • Is there anything better than good food with someone you like? This had me captivated and salivating! I’m so glad it was delicious.

  • I also agree that turkey is not high on my list of favorite meats, but this “melon” is absolutely beautiful and I will keep this recipe handy for my next thanksgiving meal. Thank you for sharing a lovely idea.

  • My only problem with turkey meat is that it really has tendency to be dry…. and I’m not a fan of (rich) sauces either – I just like the meat in its own juice.
    This looks and reads deliciousl(y) – but I too am dismayed by the high price. I mean who can pay €24.- for just the meat for two…. (even if in the end you eat a few times from the one buy) – meat is much more expensive in Switzerland but even for a Swiss this seems high. Mind you, our butcher nearby who has fantastic meat, is ‘upping’ prices on a very regular basis and if their meat wouldn’t be so totally fantastic and the service so totally great, I would have stopped shopping there long ago. But then, you just have to see the queues of customers going around the block for both butcher and neighbouring boulanger and you know why they (and us) all come to those two places.
    Thanks for this precious update; I was so wondering what would come out of that ‘melon’…

    • It may seem high, but this would feed 6 people generously, so it’s only €4 per person, which is a lot less than buying steaks or fish. Yes, prices have really been going up a lot in Europe, and I guess Switzerland, too. But there was a considerable amount of work that goes into making things like this, so I’m fine with paying more to support butchers like you do. Perhaps print a picture and show it to your butcher – maybe he can recreate it for you!

      (And this was very moist and juicy, perhaps because of the bacon wrapping, but also I suspect this was good-quality turkey meat.)

  • Totally unrelated to the turkey, those radishes look so good! I can’t wait for summer and the abundance of fresh produce.

  • to ‘Monica’:
    I agree with you – the simplest meal with a beloved person and / or a dear friend is a festive occasion – my own ever growing body is ‘témoin’ to this phenomena! :)

  • David,
    Fascinating post. Any idea how one would do about making a melon de dinde? Would love a recipe or a hint about where to find one.

    Thanks!

  • I’d love to see Gallagher take a sledge hammer to this. I am so completely fascinated by the playfulness (and artfulness) of the thing. Thanks to you and Monsieur Boucher, I will be spending the day thinking about what else I can turn into a melon.

  • Glad to hear more about the meat melons. I would have been sorely tempted to roast it against all advice. I like turkey just fine, but not if I can have lamb instead.

  • Any ideas on how to create the melon itself?

  • Thank you, David, for the photos and the recipe. A good friend and I host an annual “Turk Off” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We feed around 75, making 3 turkeys and ordering a roast suckling pig as well. I plan to make the Turkey Melon one of the courses this year.

    These feasts are always themed. “Turk Off: The Fowl Experience,” “Get Lei-ed at the Turk-Off,” “Turk Off: When Pigs Fly,” “The Bird’s the Word (But the Pig Hasn’t Heard),” and this upcoming year? “Turk Off: The Baste is Yet To Come.”

    If you’re on this side of the Atlantic at the end of November, let me know :)

  • Turkey has yet to gain any momentum worthy of mentioning where I live in Sweden. I don’t like it at all but can’t really explain why. You’d think the leap from chicken to turkey wouldn’t be that large, but then that’s probably like comparing pheasant to a roadrunner. They have become more prevalent arount the new years though but still not to any wide variety.

    Saw raspberries in one photo. From France, and if so from what region?

  • Yes David French are not really fan of turkey. It is often tasteless and not as moist as a chicken.
    When celebrating Thanksgiving in France I either bought a turkey from the fund raiser at the American School in Saint Cloud ( I don’t know why, but theirs is more tasty and tender like the US ones)
    or decided to cook as many guinea fowls as necessary for the crowd.

    Would you share the detailed recipe of your turkey melon with us ?
    I would have thought like your butcher that braising in the cocotte was better than oven roasting. But the proof is in the pudding …

  • That looks so good! Wish we had that in the states I would love to try this dish for the holidays – :-)

  • Daveed, just one word … BRILLIANT ! You most certainly have the gift … ;)

  • Well now I can sleep at night ! I was so wanting you to purchase one of these melons so I could see what it looked like inside and when cooked. I would have no problem shelling out 25 euros for one of these. Just look at the time it took to produce it.

  • This looks so tasty. I can’t wait to hear your review of the lamb one. I am still thinking about that one.

    :)

  • I’ve looked for a recipe to make melon de dinde myself but can’t seem to find anything (maybe I’m googling in the wrong language…). Any recommendations on how to make a turkey melon myself? It looks wonderful.

  • Many thanks, David! Now I know how the meat melon is built, and probably will attempt to do something like that myself some day.
    I also think the price is not too high: you are paying not only for the meat, but for the “art of meat”. And isn’t it important that our food looks beautiful and unusual?
    It’s lunch time here now, and you make me choke on my saliva again…

  • Thanks for being brave and going back to get one of the melons to try. I think your cooking style was a brilliant step up from the printed recipe. Just letting the meat cook without all that unnecessary cream sauce (and extra fat) gave it a better flavor, I’m sure.

    You are always interesting to read. Thanks so much for bringing your Paris into my home.

  • Wait!! You can’t get away with that recipe! This is a marvelous looking thing, and I have been wondering about it ever since I saw the original lamb one. When I was staying in Paris I used to pick up those little meats, I think of veal, that looked similar but were very small, enough for one individual serving. Loved them. But when I saw your first photo, for some reason I did not realize it was bacon on the outside and I was picturing lamb sliced paper-thin and wrapped around ground lamb! Hmmm, I thought. This new photo and description are a revelation, but I want to know how to do it with a chicken or some lamb from scratch, since I will never find this preparation in the states. The photos show that it is tied to a fair-thee well. Which implies that it isn’t just a chunk of meat but is rolled somehow? Maybe stuffed with seasoning and then tied. And then the bacon is added? Photos please! This could even be fabulous with one of our increasingly dry cuts of pork. (They have ruined the pork in the states.) But that is another story… Love to see how to arrange, stuff and tie any cut….

  • Mmmm I’m picturing this as lamb melons. It would be so delicious

  • I just started following your blog a couple weeks ago, and it is a delight! Loved the story of discovering the melon and so glad you pursued cooking one. I’ve been sharing your blog with my 21 yr old son who has loved to cook since he was small!

  • For all these people begging for instructions – just take the blog photos to a butcher – it’s an artisanal product from some tiny niche phenomenon in France, and I’m sure knowledge of how to construct one is a closely guarded trade secret known only to a handful of lucky professionals.

    Nevertheless, any good local butcher in any country would likely be just as thrilled as we are to discover it and be game, ha, to try it out!

    • Yes, this is really the work of a master butcher, especially if one looks at the intricate string-tying that it took to hold the pieces altogether. But it would be interesting to show it to a local butcher, somewhere else, and ask them to recreate it..

  • Wow…I’ve never heard of such a thing. Do they serve them in restaurants in Paris?

  • I was showing everyone the lamb melon now I will do the same for turkey melon,nice to read you do not prefer heavy sauces.I use your recipe often and I find it just enough for meat.Lovely,David

  • Any idea as to how one could learn to tie such a melon? I have been intrigued since your first post on the lamb.
    Thanks for the follow up – somehow I am going to figure this out. It looks too delicious!
    Any suggestions you might have?

  • Mmm, looks delicious. I was wondering what the interior of the melon would look like! We have a lovely German butcher in a nearby village – when I ask him to process a pig for us I might take in some of your pictures and see if he thinks he can make me a pork melon – I’m getting hungry thinking about it!

  • Wow…would absolutely LOVE it if I could find a butcher to recreate this in the states. And I imagine the lamb version is divine. Although “Lamb Melon” doesn’t have quite the same ring as the French translation.

  • That might be the most beautiful arrangement of meat I’ve ever seen. It’s so lovely, it’s actually sort of inspiring.

  • I would really appreciate it if you told us how to make our own lamb melon…..which cut, etc. Sounds wonderful!

  • as usual you amaze me with each post! :)

  • Anything tastes wonderful wrapped in ba-con! Maybe Food 52 or all those Charcutapalooza people could run a contest to see who can come up with the best lamb/turkey/pork melon. Glad you bought and cooked one … when I saw it in the first post I was so curious. Those strawberries are so beautiful…much prettier and riper than those awful, over-sized underripe Driscolls we get here in the states. Lovely post.

  • Thank you for doing this for us, it is absolutely fascinating, and looks and sounds delicious.

  • Beautiful, and I would have bought it, too. Did your dinner companion like it, or did he stick with despicable?

  • Can we ask Jacques Pepin how to do this? He’s an excellent butcher and a marvelous teacher.

  • i have never heard of melons made of meat! it sounds pretty dirty in english, actually…but it looks DELICIOUS.

  • For those looking for instructions and a recipe, a French reader kindly pointed me toward two sites with instructions on how to create a “melon” out of meat.

    One is a video and the other shows step-by-step how to do it with photos. I added those to the links at the end of the post.

    Good luck!

  • Hello,
    Thank you for the wink for my blog and congratulations for your recipe.
    Have a good day.
    Christophe

  • I actually think I’d prefer turkey or chicken to lamb. It looks so delicious.

  • I recall seeing Julia Child’s show as a kid where she deboned a chicken and kept it intact and tied it up to look like a peeled orange. It was totally fascinating and thought it was a weird concept. Like who’d want to eat what you thought was an orange and it tasted like chicken? Thanks for sharing your experience. I love your site.

  • David, that looks incredibly delicious!!! Julia Child once had a recipe for chicken melon in one of her cookbooks. Maybe that’s where she got her inspiration. Is there any chance you could reverse engineer this dish using either turkey or lamb, so that we could try to do it ourselves?

  • The center of the melon was not what I was expecting. I thought it would be ground meat, so it was a nice surprise to see ‘unground’ meat. Hahaha. What exactly would you call meat that is unground? “The whole muscle”? : ) Anyway, it looks fabulous, and thanks for sharing as always.

  • Will we get to see your new place? This is the best website ever!

  • I’m glad that you shared your “melon” experience with us! It looks like a thing of beauty and it sounds like it was delicious! :)

  • Thank you David for the lovely “meat melon” ! I was wondering what was inside the round pack of meat, but do tell us more about how they made them I would love to make it at home especially that we have the lamb on the holidays; but we do serve turkey the rest of the days :)
    Love you, Love your site, and Love Paris, “sigh”

  • French madeleines in Portland. Do you know the chef ?

    http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/eat-and-drink/articles/st-jack-portland-recipe-video-may-2011/

    Ypou inspired me … tomoroow I am taking a “lamb melon” lesson at Tribolet rue Montorgueil.

    Thanks

  • David, I love your blog. Absolutely stunning photos, and so interesting to read. I was so curious as to what was in those melons, so glad you bought one.

    On a different note, have you ever tried making liquor filled chocolates? I’ve tried and failed three times, and would love to see more information on how its done. Do let me know if you have any pointers.

    • I’ve made liquor-filled chocolates in professional situations. Usually they’re made by cooking a sugar syrup to a certain degree, alcohol is added, and the liquid is poured into corn starch-indendations made in a big wooden tray. (You can see what they look like in my post from Fouquet.)

      Then, left to sit, they develop a slight crust, and then they’re unmolded and run under a chocolate enrobing machine. They’re pretty complicated to do at home – although I’ve seen some recipes online for them. (Try Googling ‘chocolate corn starch liquor’)

      ‘Cordialing’ is what is done to cherries that are wrapped in chocolate, and Googling that term might yield a recipe that works for home cooks using chocolate molds. Good luck!

  • It’s my pleasure to pass on a Reader Appreciation Award to you!

  • I have read your book, The Sweet Life in Paris, twice and loved it. This is my first time to visit your blog. I saw it on Martha Stewart’s website. I can’t wait to sit down with a cup of tea and go through your archives.

  • Fun time and you came home with goodies! La dinde sounds wonderful too.

  • This melon turkey looks amazing!

  • Thank you so much for including the links for how to do this . . . . I had already shared your blog post with a couple of colleagues — we were all intrigued by the process and the inside of the “melon”! I have not yet watched the video, but I can tell you that Google Translator works great for translating the link with the step by step pictures!

    Can you tell us more about the “stuffing” of the turkey “melon” . . . it looks like a grainy mustard on top, is it stuffed with the same, or was there something else on the inside?

    I always enjoy your blog and love sharing your writing, recipes, finds, etc. with friends and colleagues. Thank you, again!

  • I’m just back from the Raspail market with lamb melon in hand. The very sweet young woman there told me to put it, uncovered, in a cold oven, turn the heat to 180C (asmentioned in a comment above) but cook itforan hour and a half. But I think I’m going to use David’s cocotte method–with red wine and plenty of garlic and some fresh rosemary. Will report back. Thanks SO much for these 2 posts, David—I’d never have attempted this culinary adventure without them

  • David:

    A great post. I bought one today at Anvers and will make it this weekend following your in-oven method. At what temperature did you “let it rip”?

  • Well, I’m here in Houston wondering if there are any French owned butcher shops here where I could buy a melon. I have never heard of them before, which is one of the many reasons why I stop by your blog; always learn something new.

    Thank you for this post. To say that my mouth watered and that I felt extremely jealous that I wasn’t able to try this dish is an understatement. I wouldn’t hold it against you. And of course, I will come back!

  • Instead of a turducken next year, I’m making a turkey melon!

  • Made this dish, following your method as opposed to the one provided on the butcher paper. Probably used too low a temperature (350F) for most of the time, because it took 2 hours, not 1 1/2. The sauce was indeed very flavorful but needed to be degreased (all that bacon fat) and reduced a bit.

    Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful product and to the lovely little Anvers market.

  • I am going to have to try turkey melon here in Midwestern Indiana :-), it looks delicious! Btw, in Valparaiso, Indiana, there is a famous restaurant by the name of Strongbow Inn (http://www.strongbowinn.com), the only meat they serve is turkey and it is presented elegantly. I was very surprised when I first went there for Sunday brunch. It is extremely popular in Northern Indiana, among the locals and folks from Chicago. There used to be a turkey farm on the site and when the owners grew tired of farming, they decided to open the restaurant instead.

  • I snagged one on Friday, and we cooked it last night, using sort of a hybrid approach–stovetop en cocotte, with white wine, cherry tomatoes, shallots, thyme and garlic. That left space in the oven for roasted rosemary potatoes. Thank you so much for turning me on to this dish; I think this may become our new Thanksgiving tradition in France.