The last few years I have made a turducken for Thanksgiving. It has come out fine, but I thought buying a premade one was cheating. Honestly, I didn’t know I could make one on my own and have it come out even remotely edible. You can see from the image above, it came out beautifully, but how did it taste? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.
For those that do not know, turducken is known as a Cajun creation, but that is questionable (see the Wikipedia entry). In the form I used, it is more of a turducken roll than a true turducken where a carcass is placed within another and then another. I used the breast (or breasts) of three birds and rolled them together. A chicken as the center, then duck, and finally turkey as the outside.
I read many ways and watched every Thanksgiving episode of America’s Test Kitchen to get an idea of the best way to bone the fowls but did not find anything I liked when it was pre-cooking. They mentioned methods after cooking it, but it would be too late at that point. I also looked into the best way of making the Frankensteined meal. As I, again, did not like what I was seeing, I winged it.
As I already had a skinless chicken breast ready, I merely flattened it with a mallet after covering with plastic wrap. I then did the same with the duck and turkey breasts (from an 18lbs. turkey). I used both duck breasts so I could have more of it and left its skin on. With the duck in the center, it will give me fat to keep the birds moist. I also kept the skin on for the turkey. That would give me a crisp exterior when the meal was finished cooking.
Those thoughts were just guesses. I had no idea how this was going to turn out. So I cut the birds into parts and froze them for later because I had plans to do something with the remains (stock) as well as making a chili and pot pie and just general turkey and duck fried. I do have to mention I looked at the price of just the breasts and they were more expensive than using the whole birds. I also paid about one-third of the cost of last year’s turducken and had all of the parts left. The only difference between mine and the premade, as far as components go, this year I had twice the duck, seasoned fresh, and did not have stuffing directly in it.
So I had no idea what I was doing as far as boning the duck or turkey but made it up as I went along and used my trusty Fibrox knife. I love that thing because it has an excellent grip. I bought mine because of the consistently high marks from America’s Test Kitchen. Mine is a 12″, which is usually too long. I would get an 8″ if I were to get another.
So I flattened the meat to cook even, but because I was sous-viding, it would cook evenly. That also allowed easier rolling of the bird in a bird in bird configuration. Between each layer, I added the classic poultry blend of rosemary, sage, and thyme. I used fresh herbs and added parsley just because it sounded so much better: parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Each layer was salted and peppered, and then more salt and pepper were added on the outside. Realizing something else was missing, I added garlic cloves to each layer. Because there was a shortage of sage compared to the other herbs, I added the bulk of it to the chicken, then half as much to the duck, and finally half that to the turkey.
I placed butcher’s twine under the birds, and after rolling in plastic wrap to keep the surface clean, I tied them together. Four strands were all I used. I also did a crappy job of it. It was not pretty, but it worked perfectly. Because I only used four strands, I had less to deal with after it cooking.
Once finished tying, I placed in a Food Saver bag and sealed. I prepped the entire thing a day before and refrigerated.
Thanksgiving morning arrived, and I was still not sure what I was going to do as far as the cooking went. I knew I would sous vide, but not the temp and the time. I read some more and decided to make my calculations. Because I was missing the turkey legs and stuffing, I figured I did not need the same times I was seeing.
I read someone said 62C and I converted it to 144F. Deciding to go a little higher, I made it 144.2F. I also added the meat from the refrigerator and into the bath. I covered with a lid I purchased and started the cook. It was supposed to be for five hours based on the temp, but with all the variables and the fact that I was distracted making the sides, I let it cook longer. It came out to a little over six hours. If someone is trying to emulate this, I suggest 6.25 hours.
When it finished, I removed it from the bag and poured the liquid out. I realized after the fact; I could have used it for gravy. It would have been an unique gravy at that with the juices from the three birds. Because the turducken was as moist as it was, dressing was not needed.
After I finished making another side and letting the bird sit while my cast iron pan heated, I added some bacon fat to the pan, as I always keep some handy for added flavor. I used enough to coat the pan and added the bird-thing. Using tongs, I seared each side for about 30 seconds, or until I felt it seemed sufficient. It was more a feeling than a time. When it was golden brown, I flipped, making sure to get all exposed areas.
When the house started to get smokey, I turned on the fan and decided it was done. I placed on a platter and tented with aluminum foil. While it sat, I did the rest of the sides and dessert, but that is for part two tomorrow, including what this looked like inside.