Friday, December 23, 2011

The great Turducken extravaganza

I’ve achieved something that only a handful of people ever manage to do. It may be because the sound of it is quite daunting and you may have to be slightly crazy to undertake such a task. But with backing from like-minded culinary colleagues, this weekend I created a Turducken.

The response was mixed when I told people my grand plans. Some knew exactly what I was on about (thank you television show, Poh’s Kitchen) while others told me that anything with ‘turd’ in its name couldn’t be good. It was great fun explaining to people just what we’d be doing, often repeating the order, ‘yes, the chicken goes inside the duck, which goes inside the turkey’.

After scouring the internet for recipes and tips on how best to make a Turducken, my search lead me to Hawksburn butcher, Peter Bouchier. Bouchier is the butcher to David Jones’ snobby food courts and somewhat an expert when it comes to stuffing birds inside each other.

Bouchier’s teams can create a Turducken for you, or you can do as I did and order the separate components; my recommendation is to have you butcher debone the birds for you, because there’s nothing fun about removing bones from three different types of poultry. Have the butcher save the bones for you to make a brilliant stock later down the track.

Knowing I would be cooking for a relatively small group (six people total), I asked for my birds to be on the small side. I ended up ordering a 4kg turkey, a 2.5kg duck (or ‘size 16’ as I was told) and two butterflied chicken breasts, rather than a whole chicken.

Making a Turducken doesn’t come cheap – the above cost me $107. Add to that stuffing, sides and assorted roasting-related miscellanea, and you may just have to smash your piggy bank.

Turkey in the brine
Twenty-four hours prior to oven time, I drowned the turkey carcass in a bucket of brine. Or nicely put, I bathed the largest of the foul in a solution of salt, sugar, apple cider vinegar and water. Better. Looking to the well-versed Not QuiteNigella for guidance, I used her adaptation on a traditional brining solution to ensure that the turkey was moist and flavoursome come cooking time.

Pistachio and dried cranberry stuffing
To save myself stress on the day, I also prepared two different stuffings and put them in the fridge overnight. I made the third stuffing on the day.

Taking into account the rule of 45 minutes for every kilo of Turducken, it’s a good idea to estimate just how long those birdies need to roast for, and then work back from your intended serving time. Our beast weighed close to 6.5kgs once it was fully formed, meaning the Turducken would cook for a bit over 5 hours. With this in mind, we knew we needed the birds in the oven no later than 1:30pm on the day of serving.

Assembling the Frankenstein of birds required several pairs of hands, and my two gourmet-minded friends, Lady Bike-a-lot and the Poster Girl were on hand to assist.

Patting the turkey dry, we laid the bird flat, completely splayed, and using our hands moulded the first layer of stuffing (cranberry and pistachio). Doing a similar thing with the duck, we rotated the bird so that the turkey breasts were roughly in line with the duck thighs and vice-versa. This ensured the respective breasts nice and juicy (as thighs have more fat than breasts, as the birds cook, they release the rendered fat, and voila, juicy breasts).

Turkey with pistachio and cranberry stuffing

Duck with apricot and brandy cream stuffing lying atop the turkey
Layering the duck with its stuffing of apricot and brandy cream, we then positioned the two butterflied chicken breasts flat and spooned onion and sage stuffing over them. 

The next step was when being an octopus would have come in handy and I was Glad Bike-a-lot and poster Girl were there.

Pulling together the two sides of the chicken breasts to form a football shape (uh, that would be Aussie Rules Football) I lived out dreams of being a surgeon, and using butcher’s twine and a really big needle, sewed together the chicken.
Getting my Nip/Tuck on
The sewing process was repeated for the duck. Using a running stitch, as recommended by the butcher, I sewed the meat together, encompassing the already-sewn-together chicken and stuffing inside. The duck’s flesh was more difficult to get the needle through than the turkey and chicken, and the combination of raw meat with fatty duck made gripping the needle difficult to do.

All sewn up
It was time to close up. As the two sides of Frank (the Frankenstein Turducken) came together, the beast finally started to look like a turkey should. Finishing off with a good rub of olive oil, salt and paprika, we positioned a poultry thermometer, put Frank in the oven and went to lunch.

At the two hour mark, we checked on Frank. Although only roasting at a relatively cool 150 degrees, the skin of the turkey was browning faster than we liked, and even after two hours, there was no sign of any juices in which to baste our beast. With a generous glug of olive oil, we gave the turkey’s crisping skin a good drink and promptly covered it with aluminium foil to halt any further browning. A check of the poultry thermometer gave us no reading. Puzzled, we wondered whether it was broken, or if the birds simply weren’t heating up because of their many layers.

And so, we plugged Frank back in and let him cook for another hour.

Meanwhile, we prepared a whole host of side dishes: candied yams, crunchy roast potatoes, green beans, roast beetroot salad, and our entrée, baby bocconcini and roasttomato tart with pesto. 
A further hour on in the roasting journey, the Turducken’s juices were finally flowing, and we reinvested the dividends, basting the bird to ensure a beautifully moist specimen once done.

And “done” took a bit over five hours. Keeping an eye on the poultry thermometer, we were looking for the magical number: 72 degrees. With the oven at 150 degrees and with the thermometer reading in the low 60s, we cranked the temperature to 250 for the final half an hour. Success! Thirty minutes later, bing bing bing, we have a winner, 72 degrees.

Leaving the bird to rest for half an hour, we busied ourselves with adding final touches to the table, preparing the entrée and clinking our champagne cocktails with shouts of Merry Christmas.

Champagne cocktail? You heard me right! A mix of 25ml sloe gin, 10 ml Chambord, 10 ml lime juice and topped up with the fizzy stuff, the Sloe Soul as it’s called is a lovely, fresh and fruity aperitif for an Australian Christmas.

Carvin' it up!
Finally, it was time to dissect Frank. It was a glorious moment, and despite the heat in the kitchen, my skin puckered into goose bumps at the amazing cross section of three different types of meat layered with three different stuffings. It was a proud moment – we had pulled it off! – and at last, it was time to taste the efforts of our hard work. Delicious!

Stuffing, chicken, stuffing, duck, stuffing, turkey.
Within the ranks of the work-friend-foodie army, Lady Bike-a-lot teamed up with the Boggle Champ to create our dessert. And what better dessert to match a Turducken that a Bombe Alaska? It keeps to the theme of something within something within something (cake, ice cream, meringue). To top it off – literally – we flambé’d the whole thing with brandy, which was almost as exciting the eating!

The bombe!
The question I’ve fielded most since the Turducken Extravaganza was ‘would I do it again?’ Put simply, yes – but only once a year. The Turducken is really a special event kind of meal, and the effort involved cannot be repeated too often, save risking foodie burn-out. The novelty of having three different kinds of bird in one slice is nice, but at the end of the day, it really is just roast meat (of the most delicious kind, of course!) So, come 365 days, watch this space as Turducken 2.0 may just become a reality.

Lots of love and Merry Christmas!

Fifi von S xox

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