In continuing the focus on food for this month, much of this week and next week will be devoted to that holiday that we love…and sometimes dread.
Thanksgiving is one of those yearly times of celebration when we get together with family and friends. Whether it’s an intimate dinner or large family gathering, we come together from various parts of the city and country to laugh, play or watch games, hold babies…and sometimes deal with or avoid family problems!
And what would a good ole family gathering be without food. LOTS OF FOOD! It is amazing the amount of food we prepare for Thanksgiving Thursday. I hear stories of people preparing multiple meats, vats of gravy, barrels of mashed potatoes and baking as many as 20 pumpkin or sweet potato pies.
So I want to devote some blog space, over the next few days, to help you get ready for the festivities. And we are doing Thanksgiving with a twist. I will help you prepare a menu or dishes that will take the traditional and turn it on its head. Things like Sweet Potato Pound Cake instead of pie. I get kind of tired of seeing the same dishes each year. It’s time to change things a bit.
And we begin with the tale of the Turducken.
In 2003, I was watching a Food Network show and heard mention of a Turducken. Never heard of it before then. But I watched as a butcher prepared one. He took a turkey, chicken and duck, deboning each and laying them flat. Then he put a layer of dressing (love it!) on top of the open turkey and placed the chicken on top. Then, he spread ANOTHER layer of dressing on top of the chicken, topped it with the open duck, which was spread with another layer of dressing, before the whole thing was trussed with butcher’s string.
He had me at the dressing.
The decision was made. I was going to cook a Turducken for Thanksgiving. But the thought of putting all that work into this big burrito of a bird tired me out. But I remembered the butcher was preparing the Turducken to be sold. I could order a frozen bird, or birds – all I would have to do is thaw, roast and serve.
I followed the instructions for thawing the hunk of layered birds then started trying to figure out how much time it would take to prepare it for the next day. Since it was going to be an early meal with relatives, I realized the bird burrito would have to roast overnight. And I would have to get up a couple during the night for basting.
Over the years, I had contributed many of the other elements to the table (from salad to dessert) but this was my first time actually cooking the headliner to the meal. My only experience had been with turkey breasts or medallions as a self-taught chef. But cooking a WHOLE bird was a little bit different. I had heard so many horror stories about people sitting a half-frozen or semi-raw turkey on the dining room table. But I followed the instructions and waited for the little red indicator to pop up.
Once it was done, and had cooled sufficiently, I anxiously split the bird in half. Part of it would be taken to the family gathering…and part would stay at home for my enjoyment later. The skin of the bird was a warm mahogany color. And when I turned the breast to reveal the meat and stuffing…it was pure delight. It was almost perfectly layered. The meat was juicy and the dressing was moist, not dry.
It would not be fair to take this creation to the gathering without tasting it first to make sure it was edible. It was. I had a good time edibling (yes, I said edibling) a slice or two.
When I arrived at cousin Tina’s house, everyone was curious as to what was this concoction I brought for dinner. It didn’t take long before people were asking to taste it. Some wanted to taste the combination of meats and dressings. Some were more interested in tasting duck, something they’d never had before. Some were like me and were more interested in the dressings. But they all liked their first experience with THE TURDUCKEN!
I have not ordered or prepared a Turducken since then. But there are reasons for that. I’m never home at Thanksgiving. Over the past few years, I’ve either spent it in Oklahoma with over 80 in-laws or in Texas with friends. One year, I was home but Mom prepared the turkey.
But I know the Turducken will return sometime soon. Maybe next year. And this time, I know that I will stuff some herbs between the meat and skin. And I will prepare a paste of garlic, olive oil and herbs to flavor the skin. And if that goes well, the next year, I’ll be the butcher to the birds.
Special thanks to Chris Cushing and Willie Schnoebelen for their creative suggestion of the Pum-App-Ry Pie (pumpkin, apple, cherry pie)! It’s coming!
www.cajungrocer.com – Cajun Grocer carries the Turducken and the NEW Quaducant (quail, duck and pheasant). They also will ship any other side dishes needed for your dinner, as well as some traditional New Orleans and southern food items.
www.cajuncreations.com – Carries deep fried turkeys and other Cajun food items.
http://homecooking.about.com/od/turkeyrecipes/ss/turduckensbs.htm – Instructions for preparing your own Turducken, with pictures