Back in the late 80’s (and half a dozen years before the late John Madden introduced this great entrée to the country during a New Orleans Saints game one Thanksgiving) I tasted my first turducken. Attending Navy training and finding myself away from friends and family for the holiday, I wandered into the Pensacola Officer’s club to order my Thanksgiving meal. The waitress explained some of the regional offerings on the menu. When I saw the name and description for the turducken, my mouth immediately started to salivate! And thus, began a long-standing love for a wonderful roast.
What was once considered a unique and somewhat weird Thanksgiving main dish has now reached well beyond the confines of southern kitchens and can be found at many of our local grocers during the holiday season. Pronounced tur-duhk-uhn, this poultry triple-threat is a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a mostly deboned turkey (its wings and legs are left intact). There is usually stuffing inside the chicken and between each bird. It is the ultimate poultry dish and, for obvious reasons, has become a popular Thanksgiving dinner. Depending on the region, the stuffing may be made with bread or cornbread and seasoned with sausage or even crawdads!
While the origin of the modern-day turducken is up for debate, it is most often associated with New Orleans and Cajun cuisine. The late Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme claimed to have invented the turducken in the 1970s. He became synonymous with the dish—and even trademarked the name in 1986 (Turducken™). While the origin of turducken might forever be shrouded in mystery, it is indeed part of a long history of “engastration,” the practice of stuffing and cooking one animal inside another.
Cooking a turducken is not that different than roasting a turkey. Place it in a large roasting pan fitted with a rack, and it will cook for anywhere from 5 to 7 hours depending on its size. The general rule is to cook it about 20 to 25 minutes per pound in a 350° to 375°F oven until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 165°F. Because of all the meat, the turducken will take longer than a typical turkey. With most of the bones removed, a 15 to 16-pound turducken will feed more people than a 15 to 16-pound traditional roast turkey.
From the outside, turducken looks like a regular turkey. It’s easy to shape into its original form because the legs and wings are still attached. And carving is super easy since there are no bones to deal with! By serving a turducken, your holiday feast will be talked about for months to come, and the day-after pot pies, casseroles, or sandwiches (add cranberry sauce for zing) will be especially good this year!
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