At Christmas, my son-in-law started talking about Turduckens. I had never heard of one, let alone seen one. I had no idea what he was talking about, but as he began to describe this fantasy beast, I became more and more intrigued. He was adamant that one day we should seek one out. My curiosity was peaked, and so, I took up the challenge and ventured forth in search of a Turducken. Low and behold, my trusty butcher, Al, came to my rescue and introduced me to this fabled creature.
The Turducken is a noble beast consisting of birds stuffed with other birds which are then braised, roasted or grilled. The word Turducken, in particular, is a portmanteau of the words turkey, duck and chicken or hen. In the British Isles, where this delicacy seems to have originated, it’s also called a “three-bird roast” or a “royal roast”. Apparently, it has been around for several hundred years and originated in Yorkshire, as a dish which was served to the very wealthy. Today, the Turducken has become very popular in the Cajun culture and is available over the internet as a frozen food item. Naturally, I prefer things fresh and gluten free.
Ten days ago, the butcher offered to create a Turducken for me if I would provide the gluten free dressing with which to stuff the birds. I did some research on the internet and decided to go with a traditional bread stuffing. The first thing to do was bake a couple of loaves of gluten free bread and then tear them into small pieces. I left them out to get slightly stale and dry. Then I mixed them with diced onion, celery, fresh sage, fresh thyme, salt, pepper and dried cranberries that had been rehydrated in hot water, then drained. I used melted butter as the binder. Al, the butcher, suggested that I would need at least 10 cups or more of stuffing. I made about 22 cups knowing that more is always better than less. I used the left over stuffing mix to make dry dressing, which I baked in the oven and basted with the Turducken drippings.
On the appointed day, I took my stuffing and went to the butcher store to meet with Al and his assistant. It was then that the magic began. In less than forty-five minutes, these two sorcerers turned a twenty pound turkey, a five pound duck and a four pound chicken into a Turducken …”POOF!”… just like that, before my very eyes! It was amazing. Let me show you the adventure from beginning to end.
This is my friend and favourite butcher, Al Chater of the Pig and Olive. Al was in charge of our mission and directed the proceedings.
These are the other three principal players in our grand adventure: A 20 pound turkey, a 5 pound duck and a 4 pound chicken. These noble foul were destined to become the Turducken.
The men set to work very quickly. the assistant started by cutting open the turkey. His mission was to leave the legs and wings intact while removing all bones from the body of this huge bird.
While the assistant was deboning the turkey on one side of the room, Al went to work deboning the chicken with great speed and dexterity.
Meanwhile, the assistant continued to debone the huge turkey. Al set the deboned chicken carcass next to Levi and went to work on the duck.
I was amazed at how quickly the men deboned the birds. They were extremely focused on the task at hand.
You can see here how sharp the knives are and how intricate the work is. Deboning a bird isn’t something I would tackle. It appears so complicated. I don’t care what Julia Childe said!
Once all the birds were deboned, the assistant set to work assembling the Turducken, layer by layer.
When I got the bird home, it was my turn to go to work. I used my grandmother’s old roasting pan. It was just large enough to hold the gigantic Turducken. I greased the inside of the roast pan with olive oil to help prevent the bird from sticking to the pan. Then I used aluminum foil to cover the wings and legs to prevent them from cooking too quickly and burning.
I rubbed the Turducken with butter and dusted it with sea salt and freshly ground mixed peppercorns. Then I tucked some sprigs of fresh sage under the string. At last, the Turducken was ready for the oven. I preheated the oven to 325F and placed the roasting pan and Turducken into the oven on the middle rack, which I had lowered one level to accommodate the size of the beast! I tented the roast pan with foil. ( By tenting, I mean resting a sheet of foil gently over the roast pan. You don’t want to seal the Turducken inside and steam the bird, but loosely tented with foil, the bird will retain more moisture while continuing to roast. ) I removed the foil every hour or so to baste and rotate the Turducken and then put the foil back on. I allowed 6 hours for the Turducken to cook and an additional 30 minutes for it to rest. During the last hour, I covered any parts of the Turducken that I felt were cooking too quickly with foil. In the last half hour, I removed the foil from the breast, wings and legs to allow them to brown. I checked the internal temperature after 4 hours, with a meat thermometre. My goal was to reach an internal temperature of 165F, before removing it from the oven and allowing it to rest.
When the internal temperature of the Turducken reached 165F on the meat thermometre, I removed the Turducken from the oven and took it out of the roasting pan. I placed it on a carving board and covered it tightly with aluminum foil. There it rested for 30 minutes until the internal temperature registered 170F and we were ready to take it to the table for carving.
When everything was ready, the Turducken was moved to the table with great ceremony. It was my grandaughter’s third birthday and the entire clan had gathered to celebrate.
My husband, Paul, did the honours at the table. He removed the legs and wings first. We placed those on a platter for dinner the next day. He then carved the Turducken in half to make it easier to handle. Paul was then able to slice the Turducken and serve it to the eagerly awaiting family members. The Turducken was very moist and tender. The flavour was remarkable! This beast has easily become our family’s favourite. We are all looking forward to the next excuse to order another and don’t anticipate ever going back to plain old turkey again!