Thanksgiving Spice - Chef Michel Despras

Le St. Germain - Indian Wells



Promising a new world where people could live free, America became a melting pot of cultures ever since the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, Mass. The “land of opportunity” fuses more ethnic flavors than any other country in the world.

Throughout the centuries, as people continued to emigrate from every continent in the world, many adopted the “American” way of doing things. However, certain ethnic customs and influences have thankfully simmered through, mixing and mingling in the most delightful ways, especially in the area of gastronomy.

Three desert chefs — one Italian, one French, and one Mexican — who moved to the States to pursue their culinary dreams, talk about how their love of dishes from home influence their celebration of the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving.


“Do you want to know a secret?” Michel Despras whispers with an anticipating smile, ready to divulge the French method for rendering the most tender, juicy turkey.

“Take the entire turkey; split and debone it. Put sage, butter, salt, and pepper in the center, and then wrap the entire turkey in caul fat [the fatty membrane that encases the internal organs of pigs, cows, and sheep]. Roast it for an hour and 15 minutes, and — voilà — you will have the most succulent Thanksgiving Day turkey!”

For Despras, who moved to the United States in the early ’70s from Avignon, France, celebrating Thanksgiving each year with his wife and children at Le St. Germain has become a tradition.

Whether meals are prepared for a holiday celebration or any other day, Despras believes in cooking with organic and local produce whenever possible.

6 oz. unsalted butter
8 oz. yellow onions, chopped
1/2 lb. white mushrooms
1/2 lb. shitake mushrooms
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
3 T. lemon juice
8 oz. dry white wine
12 oz. chicken broth
12 oz. heavy cream
2 T. dry sherry (optional)
2 drops white truffle oil
6 oz. chopped chives
4 oz. sliced black truffles (optional)

Sauté onions in butter over medium heat until softened. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced two-thirds.

Add chicken broth and continue heating 15 more minutes. Add cream and simmer an additional 15 minutes.

Blend soup in blender or with electric mixer until smooth. Whisk in sherry if using. Check seasoning and make any adjustments. Serve in soup bowl with drizzle of truffle oil and sprinkle of chives (and truffles if using).

Serves 4

2 Pekin (Long Island) duck breasts (1 1/2 to
2 lbs. each)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 orange
1/2 c. water
2 T. duck glaze
1/8 t. sugar
1 T. Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored
1 T. balsamic, sherry, or red wine vinegar (or
more to taste)
1 1/2 T. cold, unsalted butter
Pepper to taste
Orange wedges

Score skin side of duck breasts in two directions, about 20 slashes per direction. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Cut one end of the orange so it can stand on a cutting board. Slice off two 2-inch strips of peel; julienne the peel and blanch 1 minute in water. Juice the orange; strain juice into saucepan and boil until reduced to about 1 tablespoon.

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and sauté duck breasts, skin side down, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn over breasts, adjust heat to high and cook 1 more minute. Remove breasts from pan and set aside. Pour out fat. Deglaze the pan with the reduced orange juice. Whisk in glaze, sugar, Grand Marnier, orange peel, and vinegar. Simmer about 30 seconds. Adjust thickness of sauce, if necessary, with water.

Whisk in butter, keeping the pan and whisk moving until the butter is melted. Season to taste with pepper and, if necessary, add a few more drops of vinegar.

Slice breasts crosswise, arrange on heated plates. Spoon sauce over breasts and decorate with orange wedges.

Serves 4

1 puff pastry dough
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
5 large golden delicious apples
Powered sugar for garnish

Place oven rack on lowest position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread butter over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch, ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle sugar on the bottom.

Peel and then cut all apples in half, removing core. Going in a circle, place eight apple halves in skillet standing up vertically. Keep going in circles until you have reached the middle of the skillet. Fill gaps with remaining apple.

Place skillet in oven for 20 minutes.

Remove skillet from the oven and place on stove burner, cooking over medium heat about 30 minutes, gently shifting apples side to side to prevent sticking. Remove from heat.

Flatten dough and cut to fit over skillet. Place dough over apples and return skillet to oven. Cook an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool two hours (do not remove from skillet).

Place a plate, cake circle, or round cardboard on top of the skillet and flip. Garnish with a sprinkling of powered sugar.

Serves 8 to 10

Le Saint Germain
74985 Highway 111
Indian Wells, CA 92210-7136

Comments to this website are moderated by staff. While all comments are welcome, we encourage all to be polite and please do not use this system for advertising or business promotions. Any complaint towards a business or service should be directed directly to that business and not posted here. If anyone has a complaint that a comment is defamatory, please contact me at and I will take appropriate action promptly. Thank You

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Palm Springs Life
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

dish Creative Cuisine Opens Doors to its Palm Springs Kitchen During Summer

dish Creative Cuisine's Joane Garcia-Colson and Michelle Heinrich have opened the doors to their Palm Springs restaurant kitchen to invite guests to get to know them and take home cooking tips.

Ruth's Chris Steak House 50th Anniversary Dinner - June 11, 2015

Guests and staff watched a special 50th Anniversary video biography of Fertel, known as “the Empress of Steaks,” who opened the first Ruth’s Chris Steak House in New Orleans in 1965.

Ruth's Chris Palm Desert Offers 50th Anniversary Private Dinner Special

Fifty years in business certainly attests to the value of consistent excellence at Ruth’s Chris, which will recognize its golden anniversary with a special dining event on June 11 at the Palm Desert location.

Babe's Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse Wins 'Brewery of the Year' Honors

Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage recently was named Brewery of the Year at the state’s most prestigious competition, The California State Fair Commercial Beer Competition, from among 300 other breweries.

Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa Creates Participatory Wine Dinner Series

Executive Chef Joel Delmond, of the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, loves to share his knowledge of food and wine with his guests whenever he can.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

McCallum Theatre Broadway Blockbusters Experience!

McCallum Theatre Broadway Blockbusters Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the four 2015-2016 Broadway Blockbusters Series shows.
Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Experience the beauty, romance and excitement of the Palm Springs area when you enter to be the lucky winner of this romantic couples getaway
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.