Story by Manos Angelakis
New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme is said to having recreated turducken, a festive Cajun dish of stuffed boneless chicken, stuffed inside a boneless duck, stuffed inside a boneless turkey, as a Thanksgiving or Christmas epicurean extravaganza.
Turducken has been an authentic Cajun dish first found in Maurice Village of Vermilion Parish, Louisiana (population 642 in 2,000) in the late 1800s. Of course, that is not really a new dish either. Roman gourmets used to stuff a hard-boiled egg, inside a nightingale, inside a fish, inside a chicken, inside a duck, inside a peacock, inside a lamb, inside an ox, roast all on an aromatic-wood fire and the “real epicures” would only eat the egg!
Turducken is incredibly tasty. That being said, it takes two days of preparation; a process that might not be as enjoyable. The three birds have to be completely de-boned to facilitate stuffing. Additionally, stuffing is added around and inside the birds. All the preparation is done the first day, roasting is done on the second day.
On the actual day of the meal, the turducken needs about eight or nine hours of slow roasting so that the ingredients cook all the way through, and then it needs to cool at least 1 hour before it’s carved. Temperature should be kept at 260º F; if the temperature is too high, the outside bird will burn and the inside will be probably undercooked. Paying attention to temperature is very important.
Frozen birds from the supermarket should be only used as a last resort. Fresh poultry from a local butcher works much better and the butcher can de-bone the birds for you and save you considerable work. Try to purchase poultry that is not too fatty, especially the duck. Tie the turducken with kitchen twine before you cook it; during cooking, steam can cause the birds to enlarge and split. The twine helps to keep the turducken’s shape.
Some chefs use one type of stuffing for all birds. The Louisiana Cajun original uses a stuffing of oysters and crawfish jambalaya or cornbread and garlic sausage. We believe that the best tasting turduchen is stuffed with different types of stuffing for each bird. After considerable experimentation we decided that the best, to my taste, stuffing is as follows:
Use the chicken and turkey carcasses and wings to make stock. Stock is needed for moistening the stuffing, and more stock is needed for gravy. Place the stuffed turkey in the center of the oven and bake until a meat thermometer inserted through all birds reads 165 degrees. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the birds and amount of stuffing used. Rely on temperature and not time cooked, for doneness.
Serve the turducken with an aromatic, grassy Chilean Sauvignon Blanc or a fairly dry but aromatic Kabinett Riesling.
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