BY BOB FOULKES

Want to enliven your holiday table and become a hosting hero?

Meet the Turducken, a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed with a generous amount of dressing inside a deboned turkey, a recipe that goes back thousands of years to Roman times. For good reason, Turducken is much better than a regular turkey: more moist, more flavorful, and a pleasant break from tradition. Cooked very slowly, the juices from the duck and the sausage stuffing add flavor to the turkey and keep it moist without constant basting.

If you haven’t deboned poultry before, do a dry run before the big day. Pick a test day and invite some close friends over. On the day before, debone the birds, make the stuffing, assemble the turducken and keep it refrigerated overnight. Because of the long cooking time, trying to do everything in one day means an early start and adds unnecessary pressure.

And don’t be intimidated; this is easier than it looks. If it looks like too much right now, why not save this recipe for another time? You won’t be disappointed.

BASIC NEEDS

  •  16-20 lb whole turkey
  • 4-5 lb whole duck
  • 3-4 lb whole chicken
  • large roasting pan and rack
  • Sharp knives are an absolute necessity
  • cotton string
  • large needle and cotton thread

DEBONE THE BIRDS

The chicken

To make things easier, debone the chicken and duck before taking on the turkey. They go inside the big bird so any mistakes you make deboning them will be hidden.

  • Clear off a big counter space.
  • Rinse the chicken and remove the neck and giblets.
  • Place it breast side down on the counter and cut through the skin along the length of the spine.
  • Starting from the neck end, use the tip of your knife to gently separate meat from the carcass rib cage on one side.
  • At the neck end, cut through the meat to expose the shoulder blade. Cut meat away from the bone, severing the bone at the joint, and remove the shoulder blade.
  • Since these birds have little meat and go inside the turkey, you can cut off the wings and drumsticks and add them to the stock pot.
  • Continue separating the meat from the carcass working front to back, heading toward the thighbone.
  • Try not to cut through the skin around the breastbone as you fully separate the breast meat from the carcass. This is good practice for the turkey, so work at your technique on this.
  • Cut around the thigh bone, then break the thigh bone from the carcass. Continue to separate the meat from the thighbone to remove the bones, again keeping the skin and meat intact.
  • Remove the bone and separate the carcass completely from the meat.
  • Repeat the procedure on the other side.
  • Remove the carcass and all bones and add to the stock pot.
  • Put the boned bird in a large dish or bowl and cover with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
  • Place it in the refrigerator.
  • Clean up your work station.

The duck

  • Follow the same process you used with the duck.
  • You may take the skin, fat and other bits from the duck and heat them in a pan to render out the duck fat, much prized by chefs everywhere and good for making dressing later.
  • Set the duck carcass in the stock pot.
  • Clean up your work station for the final act.

The turkey

Now that you have practised on the chicken and duck, you’ve got the process down.

There are three major changes to will make a better WOW! when you present the turkey. These will ensure your turkey looks like a turkey when you bring it to table.

  1. Ensure the skin that covers the breast remains intact as you debone the turkey. When you flip it over, you want the breast to look untouched.
  2. Keep the wing intact, it helps the turkey look like a turkey at presentation time.
  3. Keep the drumstick  intact for the turkey, giving the turkey its presentation shape.
  • Place the turkey, breast side down, on the counter top and cut through the skin along the length of the spine.
  • Starting from the neck end, use the tip of your knife to gently separate meat from the carcass rib cage on one side.
  • At the neck end, cut through the meat to expose the shoulder blade. Cut meat away from the bone, sever this bone at the joint and remove the shoulder blade.
  • Keep the wing intact and attached to the body.
  • Continue separating the meat from the carcass frame working front to back, heading toward the thighbone.
  • Try not to cut through the skin around the breastbone as you fully separate the breast meat from the carcass.
  • Remove the thigh bone, being careful to keep the oyster, a pocket of meat on the back, attached to skin.
  • Cut through ball-and-socket joint to release the thighbone from the carcass. Keep the leg attached to the meat.
  • Repeat the procedure on the other side of the bird.
  • Carefully remove the carcass and add it to the stock pot.
  • You will end up with a flat boneless bird, with the skin intact, in one large piece.

STOCK

Stock is needed for the stuffing and for gravy. To make stock, put the chicken and turkey carcasses in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add some chopped onions, celery, carrots, and a bouquet garni for seasoning. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat. Skim occasionally. Remove from heat, remove and discard the bones, strain and cool quickly in a fridge.

SAUSAGE STUFFING

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over high heat.
  • Add 3 cups onions and 1 1/2 cups celery and saute until onions are translucent.
  • Add 2 pounds of spicy Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until the meat is browned, stirring frequently.
  • Add paprika (3 tbsp.) and minced garlic (3 tbsp.) stirring occasionally.
  • pour off any excess fat.
  • Stir in 3 cups of stock and bring to simmer, about 10 minutes.
  • Pour this mixture over 8-10 cups of bread crumbs and dry bread pieces and mix well.
  • Add more bread crumbs if mixture is too moist and more stock if too dry.

PREPARE THE SEASONING MIX

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried thyme

BUILDING THE TURDUCKEN

Ten to 11 hours before dinner, assemble the turducken.

  • Spread the turkey, skin down, on flat surface, exposing as much meat as possible.
  • Rub about one half of the seasoning on the meat.
  • Spread one third of the sausage stuffing over the turkey in an even layer.
  • Place the duck, skin down, on top of the stuffing.
  • Season the duck meat with the seasoning mix.
  • Spread half of the remaining stuffing in an even layer over the duck.
  • Arrange the chicken, skin down, evenly on top of the stuffing.
  • Season the chicken with the last of the seasoning mix.
  • Spread the remainder of the stuffing on top of the chicken.
  • Carefully lift and fold the sides of the turkey together.
  • Have someone hold the bird while you sew the back of the turkey together using cotton thread.
  • Since the turducken has no skeleton, it will need to be tied. Tie 4-5 pieces of cotton string around the bird.
  • Turn the bird over and place in a roasting rack inside a large roasting pan so it is oriented breast side up and looks like a “normal” turkey.
  • Tie the legs together just above the tip bones.

COOKING

Heat oven to 225 degrees F. The Turducken has to be cooked slowly and completely through without drying it out. An oven thermometer is highly recommended. Place the bird in the centre of the oven and bake until a meat thermometer inserted through to center reads 165 degrees, approximately 9 hours. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the birds and amount of stuffing used. Internal temperature is the best and only measure of doneness.

Remove pan drippings every few hours and save them for gravy.

Remove the turducken from the oven and let cool in the pan for an hour before serving.

Make gravy while the Turducken is resting.

SIMPLE GRAVY

Take one cup of pan drippings plus one cup of flour and cook over medium heat until golden. You can use the roasting pan if you wish, it allows you to pick up all the flavour from the drippings. Slowly add stock to this simple roux and whisk thoroughly. Bring to a simmer for five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

SERVING

Bring the golden Turducken to the table. Wait for the expressions of joy and awe to subside. Slice as you would a loaf of bread; remember there are no bones. Wait for further expressions of joy and amazement to subside. Enjoy your newest holiday tradition.

Once you’ve mastered the turducken, you might want to try the Turbaconepic. (Warning: not for the squeamish.)

 

And if you’re really up for a challenge, try this one:

In the spirit of turducken, we call this the Turgobargumalpoquaparpiphechay