When the folks at CajunGrocer.com sent me a turducken a few months back, I’m sure they hoped I’d try it and write it up before the holidays. I have to imagine that 75% or so of annual turducken sales are concentrated around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Be that as it may, the right opportunity – namely, a house full of people – didn’t present itself until just after New Year’s.
Until that day, I’d been a turducken virgin. The idea of the dish – as CajunGrocer describes, “a semi-boneless turkey stuffed with a deboned chicken and deboned duck breast [with] creole pork sausage & cornbread stuffing between each bird” – had always struck me as odd. Why the heck would someone go to all that trouble and who the hell thought it up in the first place? Is it really a Louisiana specialty or just a marketing gimmick? On the rare occasion – maybe once or twice a year – that someone would walk into the wine shop and ask for a suggested pairing for the turducken they were planning to cook, it always made me kind of laugh. Silently, of course. Or maybe it was out loud…. When chortle came to shove, though, I was more than happy to give the turducken a wing.
Before and after roasting.
Given that the turducken ships frozen, the only time or labor intensive part of its preparation is thawing, which took about three days in my refrigerator. As it arrives fully prepared, cooking is as simple as preheating the oven, putting the bird(s) in a roasting pan, tenting it with foil, putting it in the oven and shutting the door. CajunGrocer’s instructions suggest about five hours cooking time. Mine took closer to six but that extra time is a typical side effect, in my experience, of the heavyweight All Clad roasting pan I use. There are actually a couple of sets of cooking directions on the CG site: one that recommends water in the roasting pan combined with occasional basting, another that goes for straight-up dry roasting. I went with the latter, preferring to keep the heat in the oven and the process as rudimentary as possible. You could, of course, get creative with basting methods or pan sauces but I wanted to keep it simple, to see how the turducken would turn out with as little doctoring as possible.
I removed the foil at around the four-hour point to allow the turkey’s skin to crisp and ran periodic temperature checks after another half-hour. When my not-so-insta-read thermometer hit160°F when inserted in the center of the roast (CG’s directions suggest 165, no doubt for litigation’s sake), I removed the turducken from the oven, tented it and allowed it to rest while cooking our side dishes. Not much to it, really.
The end result? In the simplest sense, the turducken turned out quite nicely. Its skin was perfectly golden, the meat tender, flavorful and moist.
Our turducken at two different stages of the carving process.
Slicing and dicing a little more deeply, the best came first. Carving from the neck end of the turkey we quickly hit the duck/chicken mother lode, both smaller birds delivering greater richness and depth of flavor than the white meat of the turkey alone. By the halfway point of the roast, the duck was long gone, leaving a crosshatched pattern of turkey and chicken, still moist and well flavored by the meat’s rub of creole seasonings. As the butt end of the bird approached things turned less favorable, as the chicken went the way of the duck and the stuffing took over. That stuffing, an unattractively brown mixture of cornmeal and seasoned pork, was the weakest point of the turducken, bland and dense, acting more as filler than flavor enhancer.
On the table and leftovers.... We served our turducken with cornbread, roasted yams with coriander-citrus butter and sauteed brussels sprouts with a balsamic glaze. The leftovers, at the butt-end of the roast, illustrate one of my main issues with the construction of the dish: uneven distribution of the creole stuffing.
At about $85, the average price after shipping, CajunGrocer’s turducken might seem like a rather hefty investment for what many might consider a novelty act. Take into account the amount of work – not to mention trial and error – that would go into making one from scratch though, along with the fact that it’s easily enough food to feed twenty people, and you might just consider it an investment worth risking.
Finally, yes, I do recommend wine pairings for turducken when asked. I suppose beers such as Blackened Voodoo or Abita Amber would have been more appropriate to turducken's Louisiana roots. For my own purposes, though, I opted for a couple of Loire Valley Cabernet Francs. Catherine & Pierre Breton's 2005 Bourgueil "Clos Sénéchal" stole the show. It's painfully young but still delicious, brimming with black and blue fruits and a brooding, sauvage aromatic profile. The 2003 St. Nicolas de Bourgueil "Vieilles Vignes" from Joël Taluau, which was pleasantly plump and quite tasty on release, has now shut down and gone into a completely dumb phase. We still managed to drink it... but forget about it for a while if you're holding any.
The roasting pan: