I thought of the Turducken yesterday as I looked at our turkey and smoked salmon this first Christmas in Haiti. It was a perfectly nice festive meal, made extra special by our family and friends, but the Turducken has become something of an obsession ever since I heard that a friend was having it this Christmas.
What a remarkable invention. The chicken-duck-turkey combo is a form of engastration, a way of cooking that originated way back in time and involves stuffing one animal into another. If it sounds like something that might be popular with Henry the Eighth, keep going further back: the Romans were very partial to engastrated main courses too.
Back in 1807, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière was praising his “incomparable roast”, a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler. However, the final bird was rather small, possibly barely large enough to hold an olive. And in the late 1800s, the French diplomat and gourmand Talleyrand roasted a quail in his own inimitable way: seasoning it with truffles, marinating it in champagne, then placing the small bird inside a young chicken, sewing up the opening, and dabbing butter all over before placing the engorged chicken inside a turkey. “The steaming trinity”, he assured, was a “delicious, perfumed dish”.
Their website describes the thrice-over bird as follows: “Apart from the drumsticks and wings the full Turducken is completely boneless, and when sliced in the proper direction reveals a cross section of every component ensuring everyone receives some duck, chicken, turkey, and stuffing.”
Apparently the creature will need five whole days to defrost in the fridge, or 24-36 hours in cold running water. Each can feed anywhere between 10 to 25 people, depending on size and it comes with a choice of stuffing.
In his blog, Steve Dolinsky, food writer for ABC7, says he found the “Frankenbird” fairly more-ish. After his first shot at roasting the Turducken, he reported that “the knife sliced through effortlessly, revealing a fine vivisection of the poultry trio and their complementary layers of chicken apple sausage stuffing. There was general agreement that this bird was, indeed, moist and juicy.” This, despite Mr Dolinsky admitting he was more generally a “Peking duck kind of guy”. It’s worth noting that Mr Dolinksy’s blog bears the tagline “always hungry, never speechless”. That alone gives him great authority.
Clearly, the Turducken is a superbird, one to watch. In a culinary throwback, it’s becoming increasingly popular. Just not in Port au Prince yet.