Conquering the Poultry Leviathan: Turducken


“Well, we knocked the bastard off !” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Alright loyal eaters, we’ve arrived at the mother lode of food preparation on the list of 30: the turducken.  We’re talking about 35 pounds of poultry layered like delicious nesting dolls of meat and stuffing.  But brace yourself, the preparation is not pretty.  Or brief.  So you might need snacks for this post.  Actually, skip the snacks and just get a beer.  I will do my best to keep the pictures tasteful and the steps  concise.

Put on your mountain climbing face…turducken is the Everest of the poultry world.

Step 1. Hire a sherpa: Read your recipe (over and over) and plot a strategy.

I got a little help with this challenge.  A friend had convinced me to include turducken on my list, with the promise that he would help me my first go around.  He was the Tenzing Norgay to my Hillary.

Per my friend’s suggestion, we used Paul Prudhomme’s recipe for turducken.  The recipe is incredibly thorough and has ALL the ingredients and steps listed, including for the stuffing(s).  Yes, plural.  Also, the final item on the ingredient list IS  “1 small hammer”.  I warned you it wasn’t pretty.

I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the recipe, but you can see the whole thing here.  I read this recipe over and over in the days before cooking so I would have a big picture idea of the whole process and so I wouldn’t panic from the altitude (altitude/butchering).

Step 2. Assemble your climbing gear: Shop for ingredients and order your birds.

We ordered the birds from a specialty deli and had them defrosted on site.  If you’re local, B&B Deli is the way to go.  Plus, while we were waiting for our birds (and lunch!), I got an appetizer.

A little appetizer while waiting to pick up the turkey.

And yes, that’s a piece of deep fried bacon.  They have EVERYTHING at B&B and it’s locally sourced, nose to tail.  I even spotted the elusive sweetbreads in a freezer case.  Also, I knew we were in the right place when I spotted this:

These guys don't mess around

Step 3. Map out the climb: Set your plan of attack.

The turducken party was set for a Saturday evening.  So, I made the stuffing on a Thursday night, Friday evening was reserved for assembly, and the “bird” cooked for about 8 hours on Saturday.  Yes…that’s three days total.   Take the time to develop your strategy and set up your base camp before you head to the summit.

As my counterpart said, “Turducken is less like cooking and more like staging a military invasion.”

Step 4. Start the climb: Make the Stuffing

My chaotic kitchen Thursday night

Yes, that is a beer on the corner of the counter: we made two kinds of stuffing from scratch.   Making the stuffing from scratch was worth it in the end, but give yourself plenty of time. After making your stuffing(s) refrigerate them until they go into your birds.   Disclaimer: I scrapped the shrimp stuffing and just made big batches of both the cornbread and andouille stuffing.  Everyone has their limits.

Step 5. Brave the elements:  De-bone your three birds. (This is where things get barbaric.)

Friday evening we completely deboned the chicken and the duck, removing ALL the bones.   Technically the term is “boning” a chicken, but because I’m immature, I’m going to have to insist on using the term deboning.

About to start the messy process. From L to R: Flyover Foodie, Duck, Chicken, Tenzing Norgay

Deboning is a lot of work and mess.  Note how the whole kitchen island is covered in foil.  BUT- Some of my anatomy/physiology classes came back to me and I have a better understanding of poultry’s “make up” than I had before.  It is not for the faint of heart though…there is a lot of pulling and tearing, mainly done using your hands.  The next pictures are intense, so you may want to speed scroll if you’re not into butchering.

Post de-boning. I know...graphic but sort of amazing.

You literally end up with the entire intact skeleton out of the bird.  On the turkey, leave the leg bones in for some structure.  It took about 45 minutes to an hour for each bird, but I’d imagine it gets easier with practice.

Also, try not to cross contaminate your red wine.

Step 6. Preparing for the final assent: Assemble the leviathan.

Now we have stuffing and boneless birds.  And like the North Face of Everest, this requires careful placement and a couple sets of hands.

First, lay the chicken flat on the counter, skin side down, and cover the meat with stuffing.  The two sides of the chicken get brought in toward the center and overlapped them to “close” the chicken.  The stuffed chicken goes on top of the duck, spread flat on the counter and covered with stuffing.   “Close” up the duck around the chicken.

The “chuck” (chicken + duck)  goes “seams down” on top of the flattened turkey to put the last, outside layer on.

The stuffed "chuck" on top of the deboned turkey

Once the turkey is closed around the other two birds, you have to seal up the seam.   You can use a poultry suture or  a couple skewers to close it.  This helps keep the meat moist and hold its shape while cooking.  When its ready to go in, it looks like this:

Ready for 10 hours in the oven!

I found it funny that our recipe said all your guests would be “fooled when you cut into the turkey”.  Um. No.  This doesn’t look like a turkey.  Despite our best efforts, it was a little flatter and wider than a “real” turkey.  No one would be tricked.

Step 7: The Final Summit: Bake the Beast

Saturday morning the turducken went in to a 225° oven to bake.  And bake.  And bake.  You need low heat for a long time in order to actually cook the inside thoroughly.  You know how I feel about poisoning guests.

10 hours later…..

Roasted to perfection!

Step 8. Plant your flag on the peak: Cut and Serve!

Ready to serve to the hungry masses!

Our guests patiently waited for 30 minutes while the beast rested….not an easy task!  The a cool thing about turducken is that the work involved is obvious in the final product.

The uncool thing is that my camera battery died right as we started plating.  Sigh.

UPDATE: Just got emailed some photos of our finished product!  Check out this lovely:

The belly of the beast

And this extreme close up:

Layers of love!

You can see the darker duck meat nestled in the middle.  Mmmm…duck.

So how was it?  Better than Thanksgiving. Honestly.  Having the duck in the middle kept everything so moist and slicing and serving was beyond easy.  Complex, delicious, flavorful.

UNFORESEEN BONUS: The cornbread stuffing was turducken-tastic.  The sweetness of the cornbread was the perfect combination with salty, seasoned birds and the richness of the duck.  I’ve already informed Handsome Husband it’s being made for Thanksgiving this year.

We’ve made it through our grueling trek!  Thanks again to my co-chef for leading me through this test of strength and endurance.

Do a turducken once in your life…..but definitely bring a sherpa along with you.

xoxo Flyover Foodie

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3 responses to “Conquering the Poultry Leviathan: Turducken

  1. Way to go Noreen! That’s awesome.

  2. Dude, boning a chicken? Still laughing!

  3. Kewl you should come up with that. Excleenlt!

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