by Forrest Hanson
In the age of Double Downs, McRibs, and more bacon-wrapped atrocities than you can shake your fat little finger at, it’s not hard to lump the turducken in as yet another cellular symptom of America’s fatty issue.
After all, a turducken is meat, filled with meat, enclosed by meat, stuffed with bread, butter, a few begrudging vegetables, and more meat. It owes its place in modern discourse to two men — Paul Prudhomme and John Madden — who’ve treated their bodies less like temples and more like a chain of Golden Corrals. And as our nation struggles to tighten its belt, the turducken doesn’t exactly scream abstention.
Yet now is the time we need turduckens the most!
Turduckens call for a coming together — of chefs, of feasters, of proteins — during a season when coming together is oh so difficult. The sanctioned holidays bracket a medley of looming deadlines and libertine holiday parties. Each hour spent with family is offset by an interminable queue or TSA peepshow. Every sniffle and sopping cuff is a reminder that you’d rather be at home under the covers. And all anyone really wants is an excuse to throw on some sweats, gather with friends, and tryptophan out.
Turducken is that excuse.
If umami is the fifth flavor, investment is the sixth and your turducken will have it in spades. You will pour blood, sweat, and tears into these birds and your back will tire and your focus will wane and you will rely on your friends to pull you through. As others arrive offering potluck soufflés and glögg as recompense for a taste of your delicacy, a bustling affinity will consume the day. Little hamlets will sprout up around the apartment, and you’ll make the appointed rounds.
Then you’ll step aside and watch as each of your friends, in random succession, takes a bite that completely overwhelms them. They will lean back. Their eyes will close. They’ll smile and they will exhale. And in that instant, as you feel a dull ache in your chest and pressure building between your eyes, you’ll wonder why you don’t do this more often.
Suffice it to say, if you’re ordering your turducken through Google Adwords you are missing the point. So let’s begin!
First things first, you’re going to need: a turkey (15–20lbs); a duck (5–6 lbs); and a chicken (3–4lbs). Order those suckers pronto. You’ll also need to assemble a team. Turduckening is a marathon, and you’ll need everyone to be in it for the longhaul. Four to five people is an ideal crew. Sort out your alphas and your betas, and rest assured there are tasks enough for everyone — shopping, chopping, stirring, baking, and deboning to name a few — so there’s no room for kitchen bullies here! Now divvy up the following tasks as you see fit.
DEBONING THE BIRDS
A great pleasure of the Turducken is that it’s boneless and can be sliced like a loaf of bread. Unfortunately unless you ordered your birds from KFC, you will have to remove those bones yourself. Do not order your birds from KFC.
Deboning was always our pre-med roommate Mike’s domain. (He is filling out secondary applications right now and was asked in one to complete the following sentence: “Most people don’t know that I can (fill in the blank).” He opted for “…de-bone fowl with surgical precision.” True story.) In his absence, I’ll refer you to these gentlemen with a few addenda. 1) You can break up the larger bones with a hammer first. It makes the job a lot easier, and it is great stress relief. 2) Watch plenty of Swedish chef.
Remember how much Big Bird always bothered you. Big Bird sucks. GO TO TOWN!
· 1 cup evaporated milk
· 2 eggs
· 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (in all)
· 3 bay leaves
· 3 cups chopped onions
· 2 cups chopped green bell peppers
· 1 ¾ cups chopped celery
· 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
· 4 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic (!)
· 4 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Pepper Sauce (!!!!)
· 2 lbs duck or chicken giblets, ground
· 8 cups roughly crumbled cornbread
You should start by calling your mom and asking for her cornbread recipe. It is the best around, and you owe her a call anyway. Now bake it, shred it, spread it across a sheet pan, and return it to 300 degree heat until the crumbs are dry and browning (30ish minutes).
While that is happening, melt half the butter together with the bay leaves before adding in your onions (solo for 5 minutes) then your peppers, celery, garlic, and (with pizzazz) both magics. Do not use some generic-brand magic. It has to be Chef Paul’s. As the onions brown and the green fades from your peppers, stir in the giblets and let the whole mess cook another 5 minutes. Add the remaining butter, remove everything from the heat, and chuck the bay leaves.
In a mixing bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the eggs and milk — which you presciently blended together ahead of time — then add the veggie mixture incrementally until it’s all evenly mixed. Spread everything out as thin as you can on the sheet pan and balance it in the freezer so it cools as quickly as possible. High five!
· 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
· 2 ½ lbs Andouille sausage
· 5 cups chopped onions
· 3 cups chopped celery
· 2 ½ cups chopped bell peppers
· ¼ cup minced garlic
· 7 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Pepper Sauce
· 5 tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Meat Magic
· 3 cups breadcrumbs
If you noticed these ingredients look suspiciously like the last recipe’s only with sausage, you’re right. Got a problem with that? I didn’t think so. Team up with your cornbread friend and chop chop. (Literally. You will forget there was ever a time you WEREN’T chopping vegetables.) Chin up. It’s worth it!
Chef Paul’s turducken instructions call for a third, seafood variation with shrimp and oysters or some such, but Homey don’t play that. And Stove Top is delicious! Buy a box!
With all these things going on, your kitchen will look something like:
(Video by Craig Rubens.)
But don’t let that stress you out. If things for some reason get a little tense, you can tell this joke to lighten the mood: Where is a turducken’s favorite vacation spot? Port Manteau.
Better? It’s yours. Onward!
Plop the turkey skin down on to a clean counter or kitchen island where everyone can reach it. Sprinkle the turkey’s interior with as much Meat Magic is you see fit, massaging it in for max flavor. Then start cramming chilled cornbread stuffing all up in that bird! About a cup and a half in each leg cavity, a few cups in the wings, and a ¾-inch thick bed for the duck to rest on in the turkey’s breast cleavage. Giggle at the words “breast cleavage”. Refrigerate. (You’ll have used 8–9 cups in total — the remainder you’ll bake separately.)
Do roughly the same thing with the duck and the sausage stuffing (~ 4 lbs) then again with the chicken and the Stove Top (~ 3 lbs), but I recommend having cooked both those birds beforehand. The sum of a turducken is greater than its parts, unless one of those parts is undercooked. Then it’s just unhealthy. Better to be sure. And don’t worry about those bad boys drying out. They’re enSCONCED in moist fatty goodness! They will be fine.
That done, it’s time to piece everything together. You’ll need a handful of bamboo skewers, a 15 x 11-inch baking pan, and another, slightly larger pan. Roll the chicken’s sides together around the stuffing and secure it with two criss-crossed skewers inserted lengthwise down the chicken. It will look like a little meat football. Wrap the duck around the chicken, hitching it with two more skewers and removing the first two from the chicken, then repeat with the turkey around the duck/chicken. It should be stuffed but not engorged as you don’t want the skin to tear while it cooks. Remove excess dressing as necessary and secure the neck flap with another skewer.
Turn your 15 x 11-inch pan upside-down and press it onto your turducken’s skewered undercarriage. Enlist a friend’s help to flip the whole thing so your creation’s unmarred breast faces up, then mar that guy with as much Meat Magic as your heart desires. Wrap a few pieces of tin foil around the tips of the wings and place two more pieces at the front and rear to keep any excess stuffing from tumbling out. Place this pan into the larger pan, ideally leaving an inch or two on each side to collect any overflowing goodness.
Now comes the hard part: waiting. Your bird needs eight hours in the oven (at 225 degrees — you’ll cover it with tin foil after 4 hours and remove it when your meat thermometer reads 165) plus another hour to settle, and you should baste it at least once an hour. So settle in. Put on some Vince Guaraldi. Play some euchre. Have you been neglecting your holiday sweater collection?
Or just take a nap. You’ll need to be well-rested for that first bite.
I told you everything would come together!
Forrest Hanson is a slore for life.