This Thanksgiving, Skip the Turkey for Gabriel Kreuther’s Stuffed Veal

Even die-hard traditionalists will be tempted by this rich and festive feast from the Alsace-born chef, with 17 red wine pairing picks from France and Oregon

This Thanksgiving, Skip the Turkey for Gabriel Kreuther’s Stuffed Veal
While veal isn't the usual protein for Thanksgiving, this preparation still goes seamlessly with all the staple side dishes of the holiday. (Evan Sung)
Nov 15, 2021

Chef Gabriel Kreuther was a young cook on the rise when he left his birthplace of Alsace in his early 20s to work in kitchens across the globe. But even now, as a world-renowned culinary figure and one of the biggest names in New York fine dining, Kreuther is still deeply influenced by the French region he called home.

Alsatian inspiration is built into the dining room of his eponymous Manhattan destination, a Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winner. There are custom-made lamps meant to look like the streetlights of his hometown, towering wooden beams like the ones used in old Alsatian homes and copper details representing the region’s breweries, to name just a few of the meaningful details. “Each piece here has a story,” Kreuther says. “Everything is connected.”

That same level of intention is evident in Kreuther’s cuisine, which gracefully ushers the farm cooking of his childhood into a modern fine-dining setting. Take, for example, his smoked sturgeon and sauerkraut tart with Riesling mousseline and caviar. When Kreuther first introduced the dish on his opening menu in 2015, he was told that sauerkraut had no place in a restaurant of this caliber. But he stayed true to his mission of honoring his heritage, and it paid off; the dish, or a variation on it, has become a beloved staple on the menu. “I never really cared about following the fashion. I always followed my heart and what I believe in,” Kreuther says. Ironically, “Now sauerkraut is in. Everything that is fermented is highly fashionable.”

It’s no surprise then that Alsace is the backbone of his very first cookbook, Gabriel Kreuther: The Spirit of Alsace, just released Nov. 9. The book shines a light on this often overlooked or misunderstood area of northeastern France that borders Germany and Switzerland. “People wanted to really know more about that region and the true roots of what it is,” he says.

Covering everything from family recipes to fine-dining dishes from Kreuther’s time working for fellow Alsatian chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his 10-year tenure at the Modern, the book proves there’s much to love about Alsatian cuisine. “It’s kind of like the German rusticity and the elegance of the French.”

 Chef Gabriel Kreuther in a booth at his New York restaurant
Kreuther’s particularly personal cookbook that came out this week is his first solo cookbook project. (Paul Wagtouicz)

Some recipes are rooted in old Alsatian traditions but updated with Kreuther’s refined approach, like the stuffed veal breast he suggests for Thanksgiving. A dish he used to make alongside his mother, the stuffed veal originated as a way to feed a crowd efficiently, so it’s a great fit for a holiday feast.

The meat gets filled with a savory and aromatic stuffing before it’s poached, seared and braised in wine and chicken stock. All of this addresses the common complaint that turkey, the typical star of the holiday, is too dry or too boring. “There are layers of meat and layers of fat and collagen so when they cook, it becomes very soft and juicy,” Kreuther says. “No matter how long you cook this, it’s not going to be dry.”

 Step-by-step process of chef Gabriel Kreuther stuffing the veal breast
Kreuther includes two methods for stuffing the veal: Cutting a pocket with a sharp knife and then sewing it closed with butcher twine, or butterflying it completely and then using a meat glue such as Activa, which can be purchased at online retailers such as Amazon. Kreuther suggests the former (shown here), as it’s simpler and more accessible for home cooks. (Evan Sung)
 Step-by-step process of chef Gabriel Kreuther stuffing the veal breast

The preparation happens over three days, but that gives the flavors time to meld and mature, and it also means there’s not much left to do day-of. As Kreuther points out, “Any Thanksgiving meal requires planning.” Between the meat, the vegetables that have been braised with it, the stuffing and the leftover braising liquid that’s turned into gravy, this recipe pretty much yields an entire Thanksgiving feast. But it still pairs seamlessly with all the usual trimmings and sides, from cranberry sauce to Brussels sprouts.

Of course there’s one more essential component of any Thanksgiving meal: Wine. It’s something Kreuther has taken very seriously ever since he started his own cellar collection at age 14 with a couple bottles of Bordeaux.

He offers several options, most from France, selected with help from his sommelier team. For more affordable picks, they suggest a cru Beaujolais such as Mee Godard Morgon Côte du Py, Bethel Heights Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley or Valentin Zusslin Pinot Noir Bollenberg Harmonie from Alsace’s Orschwihr region.

For something more high-end, they look to premier cru Burgundy such as one from Volnay Champans or a Merlot-based Bordeaux such as one from St.-Emilion producers Tertre Roteboeuf, Figeac or Canon.

Overall, they sought out examples with mineral accents, a balance between fruit and acidity, and complexity without being too tannic—“a wine that is friendly, that you want to drink two or three glasses of. That’s what you want to do on Thanksgiving.” The chef suggests opening several and letting your guests choose for themselves. To complement those options with a few more, Wine Spectator shares 10 Beaujolais and Oregon Pinot Noir bottlings below to match with the meal.

With great wine and a little time and patience, your Thanksgiving veal feast can be just as successful as the times Kreuther and his team tested the recipe in the restaurant. “Each time we sliced it, it disappeared faster than anything, and people wanted seconds.”

Stuffed Veal Breast

Ingredients

  • 1 boned veal breast (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut to 13 by 7 inches
  • 1 tablespoon Activa (meat glue)

For the stuffing:

  • 4 of 5 slices of fresh Pullman-style loaf
  • Milk, for soaking the bread
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat, foie gras fat or butter
  • 1 1/2 cups minced onions
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 6 ounces fatty veal meat (trimmed from the breast in step 4)
  • 6 ounces chicken or duck liver
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 grinds pepper
  • 1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

For the braising liquid:

  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 to 1 bottle dry white wine
  • About 1 pint chicken stock, as needed
  • Pinch salt
  • Several grinds pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Slurry (2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water)

Preparation

1. Make the stuffing: Soak the bread in milk, then press out the excess. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and foie gras fat or butter, and cook the onion until it’s soft, adding a teaspoon of salt as you do. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley, and refrigerate until chilled.

2. Grind the fatty veal meat and the liver through a small die on a meat grinder, then puree in a food processor. (If you don’t have a meat grinder, put the liver and meat in the freezer until they are stiff with cold and puree them in a food processor.)

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread, onion mixture, meat puree, eggs, pepper, nutmeg, ginger and 2 teaspoons of salt, and mix until thoroughly combined. Sauté a couple tablespoons of the stuffing, if you wish, to cook through and taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary.

4. Trim the veal breast to measure 13 by 7 inches. With a sharp knife, make a pocket, or simply butterfly the breast (ask your butcher to do this, if you like). Season with salt and pepper. For the pocket version, fill the entire cavity with the stuffing using a spoon, packing it in gently, making sure there are no air pockets. Close the opening by sewing it with a large sewing needle and butcher twine (see photos). For the butterflied version, shape the stuffing in the middle, dust the edges of the breast with Activa (meat glue), and fold the meat over the stuffing, pressing the edges together.

5. Wrap the veal breast tightly in several layers of plastic wrap, sealing the ends well with butcher twine (it will be poached in the plastic wrap the next day), and refrigerate overnight so the stuffing harmonizes and the Activa is activated.

6. The next day, take the plastic-wrapped veal breast and wrap it in two layers of aluminum foil, securing it well at the ends with butcher twine so that it resembles a large candy wrap.

7. Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop in the wrapped veal breast. As soon as the meat is placed into the pot, the water temperature will drop dramatically. Bring the temperature back up to between 190° F and 200° F, monitoring with a thermometer. Poach for 2 hours, maintaining that temperature range. Carefully drain the pot, then refill with cold water from the faucet and let the veal cool for about 2 hours, then remove it from the water and refrigerate overnight.

8. The next day, carefully unwrap the veal breast from the aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Reserve all the gelatinous juices in a plastic container for the poaching liquid. With a paper towel, dry the veal well so that, when searing, it doesn’t splatter too much.

9. To finish the veal: Preheat your oven to 335° F. In a large saucepan, sweat the onions, carrots and celery in the butter. Transfer the vegetables to the pan in which you will braise the veal. In a separate pan, sear both sides of the veal in hot oil. Put it on the sautéed vegetables in your braising pan. Add enough wine and chicken stock to come halfway up the side of the breast. Add the salt, pepper and bay leaf and place in the oven for 90 minutes; checking with a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should be at or above 150° F.

10. Remove the breast from the pan to rest. If you wish, strain the braising liquid and thicken it with a slurry to use as a sauce. Cut the veal into 3/4-inch-thick slices and serve with the sauce, if using. Serves 8 to 10.


Note: The following lists are selections of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

10 Easy-Drinking Thanksgiving Reds

SOLÉNA

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Grande Cuvée 2019

Score: 93 | $25

WS review: Showing style and personality, this Pinot is expressive with raspberry, savory forest floor and dusky spice flavors that take on structure toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2029. 7,000 cases made. From Oregon.—Tim Fish


WILLAKENZIE

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2018

Score: 93 | $30

WS review: Captures the best of Willamette Valley, with a layered structure that’s crisp yet supple with plump raspberry, orange peel and Darjeeling accents that glide toward refined tannins. Drink now through 2029. 6,930 cases made. From Oregon.—T.F.


ALEXANA

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Terroir Series 2018

Score: 92 | $35

WS review: Focused like a beam, but expressive with raspberry and savory tarragon flavors accentuated by bright minerality and snappy tannins. Drink now through 2027. 5,621 cases made. From Oregon.—T.F.


ELIZABETH CHAMBERS

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2018

Score: 92 | $35

WS review: Shows youthful bravado, with a sinewy tension framed by notes of plum, dusky spice and earthy minerality that finish with medium-grain tannins. Drink now through 2028. 2,225 cases made. From Oregon.—T.F.


PURPLE HANDS

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Lone Oak Ranch 2019

Score: 92 | $30

WS review: Sleek and pretty, with multilayered cherry and pomegranate flavors that are laced with orange peel, clove and spice notes. Drink now through 2029. 3,200 cases made. From Oregon. —T.F.


DOMAINE DU CLOS DU FIEF

Juliénas Tradition 2018

Score: 91 | $25

WS review: Light-bodied, but shows nice power and focus, offering a balanced mix of currant and blackberry fruit, with white pepper, graphite, smoke and dried herb elements and light, integrated tannins. Drink now through 2026. 5,000 cases made. From France.—Gillian Sciaretta


PONZI

Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Tavola 2018

Score: 91 | $27

WS review: Generous and lively, with rose petal, raspberry and cherry accents that glide on the long, sleek finish. Drink now through 2028. 13,000 cases made. From Oregon.—Tim Fish


CHÂTEAU DE LA CHAIZE

Brouilly 2018

Score: 89 | $28

WS review: This round and appealing red showcases ripe red plum and currant flavors, enhanced with accents of anise, mineral and spice details. Shows light, fleshy tannins. Drink now through 2027. 15,000 cases made. From France.—G.S.


HENRY FESSY

Régnié Château des Reyssiers 2019

Score: 88 | $17

WS review: A medley of cherry, raspberry and currant are bound by a tangy acidity in this crisp, light-bodied red. Underpinnings of anise, orange zest and rose petal give interest through the energetic finish. Drink now through 2024. 4,000 cases made. From France.—G.S.


CHÂTEAU DE PIZAY

Morgon 2019

Score: 88 | $20

WS review: Wild raspberry and white pepper notes are cast with orange peel, anise and garrigue elements in this light-bodied red, with light tannins. Ends with mineral and spice notes on the finish. Drink now through 2024. 12,500 cases made. From France.—G.S.

Recipes cooking holidays-celebrations new-york-city restaurant-awards Pairings Red Wines Pinot Noir Gamay Merlot

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