Please say hello to our guest writer Peter, a friend of mine from Toronto. He has been promising me a post about the Turducken he made over Christmas. Finally here it is – perfect for Easter! It’s a simpler version than the traditional form, so give it a shot if you want to wow your guests at your next party.
Recipe: The Turducken Simplified
Traditionally a turducken consists of a fully deboned turkey, stuffed with a deboned duck that is stuffed with a deboned chicken. The entire thing is roasted and a rather over-the-top meal of bird-within-a-bird-within-a-bird is the delicious result. Of course, finding and assembling such an item for your dinner can be costly and/or a helluva lot of work. But equally tasty results can be had with a bit of simplification.
This idea began to take shape on or around December 23rd, when the phrase “let’s have turducken for Christmas” suddenly became popular in my family. Not wanting to spend an entire day of my holidays deboning and not able to find a suitable ready-to-cook turducken at the eleventh hour in local grocery stores, we decided on the following simplification:
- 2 turkey breasts
- 2 duck breasts
- 4 chicken thighs
- Plus pork sausage meat for stuffing and bacon to wrap
The end result was amazing and provided more than enough turducken for a family dinner for five people. And it was much easier to make!
Step 1 – Prepare poultry pieces
Ideally, you should be able to find boneless turkey and duck breasts and chicken thighs ready to go in the grocery store. If not, it is still considerably less work to debone a few breasts and thighs then three entire birds. At this point you will also need to butterfly the pieces. You’ll end up with thinner, wider pieces of meat that will roll up more easily as well as result in a better shaped turducken.
A note on skin: leaving the skin on the turkey breasts (i.e. the outer layer) is a good idea; but as for the inner cuts you are better off removing the skin, especially the thick fatty duck skin which really won’t render down as well as you’d like when wrapped inside the turducken.
Step 2 – Brine
This may seem unnecessary, but definitely do not skip this step. Especially when working with this much white meat, the result will be much juicier and more flavourful if you brine beforehand.
The following brine is roughly adapted from the Bouchon cookbook and works well for poultry.
- In a large pot, combine 1 gallon water, 1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup honey, 6 bay leaves, 6 smashed garlic cloves, 2 tbs peppercorns, 1 tbs dried or several sprigs fresh thyme, and grated zest and juice of 2 lemons. Bring to a boil. Then cool completely.
- Submerge turkey, duck and chicken parts in brine and refrigerate for 6-8 hrs.
Step 3 – Assemble turducken
Remove bird parts from brine, rinse and pat dry. Start with with the turkey breasts: lie them skin side down and overlapping slightly. Next layer on the duck breast. Then the chicken thigh meat. And finally the stuffing of sausage meat, plus some minced garlic and parsley.
Rolling the turducken is a tricky process and is much easier if you have someone to help. You’ll also need some kitchen twine for this. Carefully roll the turducken while your assistant ties 4 or 5 lengths of twine to hold it together. Once tied, carefully weave 3 or 4 strips of bacon under the twine so it stretches across the length of the turducken.
Step 4 – Roast
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Roast the turducken uncovered for approx. 1.5 to 2 hours or until an inner temp of 165 F is reached. Remove from the oven and rest for 20 min before slicing.
If you REALLY want to go over the top with the bird-within-a-bird concept, consider the rôti sans pareil (aka “roast without equal”). Described in the 1807 book Almanach des Gourmands, the deboned birds are assembled in the following order: bustard stuffed with turkey, goose, pheasant, chicken, duck, guinea fowl, teal, woodcock, partridge, plover, lapwing, quail, thrush, lark, ortolan bunting and garden warble. Yes, seventeen birds in total!
Happy Easter everyone!