A Turducken is something of a legend in the world of over-the-top food. If you've never heard of this rare beast, it is a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey. It's a whole lot of poultry, wrapped up in one big meaty packaging. Neither preparing nor consuming a turducken is for the faint of heart, but if you do manage to pull it off then you will no doubt be remembered as a culinary god.
Turducken image via Shutterstock
While the turducken has recently come into prominence as an example of American extravagance, the practice of stuffing one animal inside another goes back to the Middle Ages, and even has a name -- engastration. Can't you just imagine Henry VIII tucking into one of these monstrosities? Since its revival in the USA, however, it has also made its way over to Australia, making its name as a suitable -- if quirky -- replacement for the poultry course of Christmas lunch.
So how does one go about making a turducken, you might ask. You're going to need time, patience, and a lot of meat. Oh, and a very sharp knife. The first step in making a turducken is to debone all three of your birds -- although you can leave the wings and legs intact on your turkey, the 'outer' layer, if you wish. This is where the sharp knife comes in -- you'll want a filleting knife or similar for this messy task. If you've never deboned a chicken before (and lets be honest, how many people have?) you can watch the video below to follow the entire process from start to end.
Once you have your deboned birds, you'll also need the stuffing that fills the gaps between them. Simple stuffing tends to be made of bread and choice herbs, but if you're feeling fancy you can add everything from nuts to sausage filling. If you're feeling even fancier, you can put a different type of stuffing between each layer of meat. There are hundreds of recipes for stuffing to be found, so just pick whichever one sounds the best to you.
All this you can do ahead of time, but don't actually assemble your turducken until you're ready to cook it. The assembly process is kind of like making a giant sandwich. Put the turkey skin-side down, and put the first layer of stuffing over that. Lay the deboned duck on top of that, skin-side down, followed by another layer of stuffing. The chicken comes last, followed by more stuffing, and then you're ready to close it all up again. Fold the chicken up around the stuffing, skewer it together in a way that you'll be able to remove the skewer once it's all done up. Do the same with the duck, wrapping it tight around the chicken and skewering again. Fold up and skewer the turkey last -- if you don't trust the last skewer to hold it all together, tie your turkey in place with some cooking twine. Remove the rest of the skewers and you're ready to cook it.
Of course, if you don't want to do all this yourself, you can always order one from a specialty butcher -- though be warned, they come at a premium. Adam Stratton from Sydney's Tender Gourmet Butchery makes a turducken with three different types of stuffing between layers, while Anthony's Gourmet Meats in Dural claims that people come from far and wide across the state for his Christmas turducken. Even Aldi is getting in on the turducken craze -- although you'll notice that their version includes only bits of turkey and duck stuffed inside a chicken -- not three whole birds.
Because it's such a big slab of meat, you'll want to cook your turducken at a low temperature for a longer period. Set your oven to 160°c, and put your turducken into whatever baking pan you have that will actually fit it. Add a litre of stock to the baking pan and then cover the whole thing loosely with foil, set it to cook for three hours. You can use any baste that you might normally use on a turkey, though Adam Stratton suggests a simple baste of maple syrup and butter for optimum caramelisation on the outer skin of your feast. After three hours of cooking, remove the foil and cook for an extra 30 minutes -- then you're ready to enjoy your turducken! Make sure to invite the whole family around, these things can feed a lot of people.
Are you having turducken this Christmas, or have you sampled this delicacy before? Tell us all about it in the comments below!