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Growing up in a carnivorous family, my perception of the holidays consisted of the extended family brought together to exchange stories over a large piece of meat. With the rare beef roast taking center stage at these functions, all of the other dishes could definitely be considered sides. Tradition dictates a turkey dinner for thanksgiving; however, I vaguely remember one year the "turkey" came from the hindquarters of a cow. Nevertheless, a well-cooked turkey dinner is about as delicious and comforting as any meal can be. If tradition is just too traditional, and you want to try something new over the holidays, your best bet is to dish up a triple-decker dinner: turducken.
Turducken is an aptly-named Cajun specialty, otherwise known as a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. When you slice the big bird, you can see the layers of stuffing between each fowl. All of the birds are de-boned except for the wing bones and drumsticks of the turkey and trussed and roasted in the oven. Many different stuffing recipes are available, but the majority contain cornbread and/or pork sausage. Often shrimp, crawfish, or oysters are incorporated into the stuffings. Interestingly, the turducken, which is considered to be a fairly recent phenomenon (created several decades ago), is not the only example of multi-animal stuffed roasts. A traditional Bedouin ceremonial feast features a roasted dinner of eggs stuffed into chickens stuffed into a goat or lamb stuffed into a camel. Having never seen this dish and there being a shortage of camels in Maine, the recipe won’t be included here.
Preparation of the turducken is neither easy nor quick. This labor-intensive dish is as much about the cooking process as it is about the final product — time-consuming preparation clearly demonstrates the French influence in Cajun cooking. If you choose not to spend a full day in the kitchen but still want to try a turducken (believe me — you must), then rest assured there are several mail-order companies out of Louisiana that offer pre-made, uncooked turduckens. And for those of you up for the turducken challenge, or you want to render your carnivorous family speechless, here is the recipe. But first, log onto http://www.thesalmons.org/lynn/turducken.mp3 for musical inspiration.
Prepare the stuffing:
½ stick butter
1 pound ground or finely chopped andouille sausage
3 cups crumbled cornbread
3 cups bread crumbs
1 cup diced onions
1 cup diced celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Cook sausage and butter over medium heat in a pan large enough to accommodate all of the ingredients. When sausage becomes lightly browned add onions, celery, and garlic. Continue to cook for three minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.
Next, de-bone a 4 lb chicken, a 5 lb duck, and a 15 lb turkey (except for the drumsticks and wings). If your local butcher is willing to do this for you it will save a lot of time.
Season each bird liberally with salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, and dried thyme. Lay the turkey skin side down on a clean surface and evenly spread the meat with the stuffing.Lay the duck skin side down on top of the turkey, spread more stuffing on the duck and then repeat the process with the chicken. Carefully wrap the turkey around the other meats and close the seam (this will be the back of the turkey) using skewers. Then tie the bird with butcher’s twine to maintain a somewhat even shape. Flip bird over and place in roasting pan. Cover with foil and bake for four hours at 350 degrees, basting frequently. Remove foil and bake for one more hour. Cooking times may vary considerably so use a meat thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees farenheight, remove from oven and let rest for 30 minutes.
Slice the turducken in half lengthwise then slice portions crosswise showing the various layers.Serve with your favorite gravy and any other accompaniments you like.
Issue Date: November 25 - December 1, 2005
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