Sunday, November 29, 2009

And on the 7th Day...

Fall squash
... they ate.
What is it about Thanksgiving and excess? What provokes a usually judicious nature to fits of reckless extravagance, of sheer profligacy? Conspiracy theorists point a twitchy finger to the great cookbook publishing houses. I blame Julia Child. One can draw an unbroken line from her to Martha Stewart, to Rachel Ray, to the Food Network. She was a spook, after all. Before Julia (B.J. – wink, wink; nudge, nudge), one could depend upon the Thanksgiving meal consisting of the turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed or sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce from the can, green beans with bacon, dinner rolls, some kind of molded gelatin dish, pumpkin and apple or pecan pies for dessert. No deviations. That was it.
Now, however, things are completely out of control, a runaway train of gastronomic overindulgence. Take the outlandish spread at one Duchess County home overlooking the Hudson River this year: four different dressings, two potato sides, a turnip dish, green beans, peas, a soufflé, two different cranberry relishes, not one, but two whole roasted turkey breasts - one brined overnight in bourbon, six desserts, and the star of the show, Paula Deen’s Turducken – an obscenity, a Frankenstein’s monster of a creation with a chicken stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey. Had I not witnessed the beast with my own eyes, I would have put the creature down to pure myth, the fabled Minotaur or Lernaean Hydra. But there it was, trussed and sutured, just waiting for a zap of electricity to bring it to life.
And do you want to know something, my frightened and gentle readers? It. Was. Delicious.
Turducken - adapted from Paula Deen and Paul Prudhomme
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds), completely de-boned
  • 1 duckling (5 to 6 pounds), completely de-boned
  • 1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds), breast and back bones removed
  • Jalapeño, Fennel, and Green Apple dressings (recipes to follow)
  • 1 large (15"x11") roasting pan
  • Metal or bamboo skewers
  • Kitchen twine
PREP: If you're smart and have a good butcher, order the fowl de-boned ahead of time. He (or she) should keep the turkey leg and wing bones intact. Make all three dressings one day ahead of time and keep refrigerated until ready for stuffing. Thanksgiving Day, splay all three birds on a covered work surface or in sheet pans and season well with salt and pepper. Starting with the turkey carcass spread a generous layer of Jalapeño Cornbread stuffing all the way to the edges. Place the duck on top of the turkey and spread with a layer of Fennel Herb stuffing. Finally, place the chicken atop the duck and layer with an Apple & Golden Raisin dressing.
ASSEMBLY: Start with the chicken. Roll one side of the chicken around the dressing towards the middle. Repeat with the other side, returning the bird to a chicken shape. If necessary, use skewers to hold the flaps together. Set the rolled up chicken on top of the stuffed duck, placing it in the center and rolling up the duck meat around the chicken. Use more skewers to close the flaps of the duck. When the duck is securely skewered, pull out the skewers from the chicken. Place the rolled up duck/chicken on top of the turkey, centering it and rolling up the turkey meat around the duck/chicken in the same way as before. Fold the sides (and neck flap) of the turkey together and secure them by piercing them onto the tip of a skewer used to close the bird. Don't forget to remove the duck skewers. Kitchen twine is also a big help in holding the turkey shape. Place breast-side down on a flat roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Cover the tips of the wings with aluminum foil. Season the exposed side of the Turducken generously and evenly with salt and pepper, patting it in gently. Refrigerate the Turducken until ready to bake.
BAKING: Place the Turducken in a pre-heated 225° oven. Bake until done, about 8 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted through to the center of the Turducken reads 165°. At 4 hours: Tent the Turducken with aluminum foil. At 8 hours: Check the internal temperature of the Turducken. When the interior temperature reads 165°, remove the Turducken from the oven. Drain all the pan drippings from the Turducken for a gravy. Cover the Turducken loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 1 hour before serving. Carve the Turducken: Remove the twine and skewers. With strong spatulas inserted underneath (remember there are no bones to support the bird's structure), carefully transfer the Turducken to a serving platter and present it to your guests before carving. Then place the Turducken on a flat surface to carve. Be sure to make your slices crosswise so that each slice contains all three dressings and all three meats. Cut each slice in half for serving.
Rhinecliff traditionalists were shocked, SHOCKED, to discover just how moist and flavorful the Turducken actually was. A pity really, as the beast will probably never, ever be reconstructed. Playwright James Goldman has a great quote about learning the Welsh language: "... a lot like learning to play the Irish harp. Very difficult, and in the end, not of much use." But now we can all say we did it once.
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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