Thanksgiving is almost here!!! For those of us who enjoy cooking, it’s GO TIME!!! This is the king of cooking holidays. It’s time to bring your “A” game. And I’m going to challenge you to create the infamous turducken. You’ve heard of it, probably seen the NFL’s version of it served at the Thanksgiving Day game on TV.
It’s a turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, layered with stuffing in between each bird. It’s an ungodly amount of food and feeds a TON of people. It is also hell to make. It took me literally 24 hours to make mine three years ago. It yielded 15 SOLID pounds of meat and stuffing. The worst part being, for all of the work that I put into it, it really didn’t rock my world.
I spent hours and hours deboning three humongous birds (well, the turkey was major). At least two of them (the turkey and the
duck) weren’t completely thawed, so my hands were numb right away. I was lucky not to have cut off a finger or two in the process. Not to mention that the layering process was a total mess. I’m talking stuffing EVERYWHERE. Then came the trussing part. Have you ever wrestled a 15 lb baby seal? Me neither, but I”m going to guess that’s what it was like trying to truss that thing by myself. (No, I didn’t have a sous chef for this project.)
Needless to say, too much work for not enough pay off. That’s until I discovered the cheating way to have turducken… Instead of risking life and limb (literally) to create 15 lbs of something nobody is going want leftovers of, you can dumb it down and feed 6 to 8 instead. HOW you ask? Let me proceed…
1 duck breast, skin on
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 turkey cutlets
2 tsp canola oil
salt and fresh black pepper for seasoning
*Stuffing recipe to follow.
Preparation: Preheat oven to 350F.
Step 1: Place the duck breast skin down on the cutting board and make one thin cut from left to right (about 7/8 ths of the way) through the breast. It is very important to leave the slice attached to the breast. Open the cut to the right like a book and make another thin cut about 7/8 ths of the way through the meat, this time right to left beginning at the crease. Open the second cut to the left like a book. It’s fine if some of the fat shows through in the center of the breast. The duck breast should now be three attached panels.
Step 2: Cover the cutting board with a sheet of plastic or waxed paper, and place another sheet on top of the duck breast. Gently pound the meat to an even thickness. Refrigerate.
Step 3: Lay the chicken thighs on the cutting board. Cover thighs with plastic wrap or waxed paper and pound them to an even thickness. Wrap and refrigerate.
Step 4: Lay the turkey cutlets on the cutting board. Cover cutlets with plastic wrap or waxed paper and gently pound them to an even thickness. Wrap and refrigerate.
Step 5: Prepare stuffing (see recipe below).
Step 6: On the cutting board, lay the open, flattened duck breast skin side down, spread a
few tablespoons of stuffing onto the duck meat, use a spatula to smooth the stuffing entirely over the top of the breast. Lay the flattened chicken thighs on the duck layer. The chicken layer should be the same size or slightly smaller than the duck layer, so trim the chicken if necessary. Spread a few tablespoons of stuffing over the chicken, smoothing it with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Finally, lay the turkey cutlets on the chicken layer, use just enough to cover the stuffing, and trim the cutlets if they are too large. Spread 1 thin tablespoon of stuffing over the turkey. There will be stuffing left over, which can be heated through in the oven, about 30 – 45 minutes, along with the turducken.
Step 7: Using both hands (and maybe a sous chef), roll the turducken jelly-roll style from left to right. Use butcher’s twine to tie the turducken like a roast in 1-inch sections, so it will keep its shape. Season with salt and pepper and Cajun seasoning. Brush off any excess stuffing from the outside, trim the ends of the twine.
Step 8: In a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pan, over medium-high heat, warm oil. Add turducken, duck skin side down, and browon on all sides, ~3-5 minutes. Please pan in the oven until turducken reaches 165F, ~55 – 65 minutes. Remove turducken to cutting board, tent lightly with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Do not discard pan drippings to make gravy, if that’s your thing.
Sausage Sage Stuffing
Yields 10 – 12 servings as a side dish
2 baguettes (long French bread), stale, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound Country Sausages, preferably homemade
1 large onion, cut in large (3/4 to 1 inch) dice (2 cups)
5 stalks celery, peeled, split lengthwise and cut in large (3/4 to 1 inch) dice
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut in large (3/4 to 1 inch) dice
15 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves picked and very coarsely chopped (1/4 cup)
6 to 8 branches fresh sage, leaves picked and coarsely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 cups turkey or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
The bread should be completely stale. If not, spread the cubes on a baking sheet and put in a low oven (250F) for about 1 hour to dry them out. (I think this light toasting gives the dressing a better flavor.)
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown it, breaking up meat into pieces about the size of a quarter. This need not be precise. Transfer meat from skillet to large bowl, using a slotted spoon. Add onion and celery to the skillet. After 1 minute, add the apples and cook 2 more minutes. Place in bowl with sausage.
Add bread cubes, parsley and sage to the bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and stock with the salt and pepper. Pour this over the sausage mixture and gently toss all the ingredients. They should combine without mushing. (Cool at this point to add to the turducken.)
Generously butter a 16-inch baking pan (2 tablespoons). Spread the mixture in the pan and dot with more butter (4 tablespoons).
Preheat oven to 350F and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. The top should have a nice golden brown crust.