Never in my life did I think I would eat or make a Turducken. When I first heard about it 10 years ago, it sounded gross to a much younger me. 3 years ago when I started blogging, always looking for newer harder cooking challenges, it still wouldn't have been something I wanted to take on. Even a month ago it was the last thing on my mind when I received an email. I would pitch in for turducken. I think we've talked about this since forever and have never done it. Do we build one ourselves, or can you buy them from somewhere? As you know from my recent posts, we hosted friends for thanksgiving last weekend. The date had already been planned when I got that email and I just sat there staring at it. At this moment, my destiny had been set forth. I can build it was my only reply.
I never imagined how much I would actually enjoy every moment of this process. The pre-party email jokes, sourcing the local birds from farms in the area, de-boning a turkey but leaving the right bones so it still looked like a turkey, taking lots of pics, the excitement from friends when they realized that it wasn't a joke anymore. But the best moment was cutting through the turducken in front of the crowd to reveal the meat-mass in all it's glory, and then of course, devouring it!
That being said, this is a long post! If you want to learn something, read through it all, but if you get grossed out by icky pictures of butchering raw poultry, skip down half way to see some pictures of the final product and a bunch of my friends having the feast of a lifetime.
As I mentioned, I got this bird from a local farm in the area. Check out Bob's Turkey Farm if you live in MA, because this turkey was amazing.
The first step is to cut out the backbone.
On TV, they make cutting out the backbone look REALLY EASY. Perhaps cause they mostly do it with chickens and not turkeys? Anyway, this was not as easy, and as you can see there was much rejoicing when I finally got it.
There are no magic words that I can write to teach you how to butcher a chicken or turkey, the only way to learn is to do it. I can however provide some tips. These thigh bones were actually easier than expected and were a big confidence booster! Just follow the bone with the knife slowly cutting away the flesh. When you make it down to the leg, find the joint, break the joint by bending the leg back, and you should be able to slide your knife right through it. Again, learn from experience.
For the ribs, I just followed them with my knife, making sure to keep as much breast meat intact as possible. When I got to the breastbone, I slid the knife under being VERY careful not to break through the turkey. This was the most important part, because if you split the breasts, you lose the awesome presentation.
All done! Wings and legs intact. Tossed this guy into the brine overnight.
I used Alton Brown's brine, cause really, who doesn't?
I am going to break here to talk for a moment about the duck and chicken. All of the turducken recipes I saw said to leave the skins on the chicken and duck. To me, that is just plain crazyness! We all know crispy bird skin is delicious, but soggy fatty bird skin is no fun. Plus if I am going out of my way to get rid of the bones, I want to be able to have nice slices of turducken where everything is edible. Later on when I am doing the dishes I don't want to see gross chunks of discarded duck skin on everyones plate. This all being said, look up at that butchered duck. If I then skinned it, I would be left with 4 separate pieces of meat! Also if I were to stuff something inside that, the duck would be totally spread out with chunks in some areas and nothing in others. So how do we solve this turdundrum?
The answer, and the way I will be making turducken in the future (THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME) is to just buy boneless skinless pieces of chicken and duck for the inside of the turkey! This solves like 100 of the issues I had with the whole turducken concept, and would have saved me a lot of time if I had realized it earlier. I ended up just butchering my chicken and duck into thinly sliced boneless skinless breasts, thighs, and legs so I could do it my way. I shoved these into a brine as well.
The next day. Time to make a stuffing.
Dried the cornbread in the oven, and cooked the rest of the ingredients in a skillet with some butter for a few minutes.
Ready to rock. Make sure the stuffing is cooled!
Here you can see what I am talking about with the thinly sliced layer of chicken. Normally duck would go here, but our duck was smaller than our chicken (which happens to be one of turduckens 100 problems that is solved by buying the meat instead of the whole bird).
Then the duck layer.
Will it close? Yes, it was actually easy to close because I made sure not to over stuff it. Over stuffing is a problem I often have with almost any stuffed anything that I cook, but this was a really important meal so I played it cautious.
My roommate Sal helped hold this together while I sewed it shut with some twine.
Time to flip it! Be verrrrry careful.
I threw it in a roasting pan, tied up the legs, and put it in the oven at 500, immediately turning it down to 350.
Beauty. I expected this to take close to 6 hours, but it was done in 3 and a half to 4. I'm guessing the lack of bones caused my discrepancy.
It rested about an hour (mainly cause we weren't ready to eat yet). This was the moment of truth. I wish we got a picture of the 20 people standing over my shoulder right now!
At this point, I was laughing to myself because I could see the amazingness, but no one else could yet.
This came out just as I had hoped, if not better. I let it register about 5 degrees higher than I normally would have, just to be on the safe side with all the stuffing and different meats, but it was only ever so slightly drier than I would have liked. But the flavor was amazing with every bite and there was tons of turducken gravy to slop over everything.
Cutting it is never pretty unless you have one with some weird meat glue in it.
I love how everyone is eating before they sat down in this picture.
Thats a lot of people!
I stole a drumstick since I cooked the thing. Even though there was no duck or chicken in this piece, it still had the turducken essence.
Almost forgot the canned cranberry!
If you need a hardline recipe for turducken, than you probably shouldn't be making a turducken. For thoes of you that came here for tips and tricks, I hope that my pictures and words could be a help in your quest for turducken enlightenment.
I just want to say thanks to everyone who came and especially who brought something to the party! It was a lot of fun. If you missed any of the recipes from the dinner, here they are:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! See ya next week!