Saturday, November 28, 2009

Survivor - Turducken Island

Sometimes things just don’t go the way that I plan. I decided to prepare a Turducken as a post-Thanksgiving project. We invited friends over to participate in the grand event. I set up to video the preparation of the dish (I will post coordinates when editing complete).

I had the turkey, duck and chicken ready and the stuffing pre-prepared. People came over about 3:00 PM and we were underway! In 1966 I deboned my first turkey with my father’s supervision. It was a project to make a ‘gallantine’ – boneless stuffed fowl or game filled with finely ground meat and strips of ham and meat. You carful arranged everything, rolled it in cheesecloth and poached it gently in a stock made with the bones. The galantine is a beautiful dish and served cold. It provides beautiful oval slices with cool patterns and is garnished with jewel-like aspic made from the clarified poaching liquid. I was 14 and getting hooked on this culinary stuff. An additional benefit is that my Dad drank wine during the production of the meal and turned a blind eye when I helped myself to some too. For a dish like this – red Burgundy like Volnay, his favorite. For less adventurous meals Gallo Hearty Burgundy. The Great Turducken Adventure brought me back to these memories.

My Turducken did not turn out as a tribute to culinary aesthetics. But I digress.

I deftly deboned the birds and decided to put my own spin on things to ‘improve and simplify’ the preparations. This usually translates to ‘complicate and screw up.’ Ask my frines or wife. That is kinda what you will get a sense of when you view the videos.

One ‘improvement’ was to lay out cheesecloth and build the Turducken on top. All I would need to do is bundle it all up and put it into a roasting pan. So far so good. Everyone was engaged, impressed with my culinary dexterity and knowledge of poultry anatomy. We got the Turducken assembled, seasoning with Vignon Flavor Balancing seasoning all the way, and in the oven by 4:00 with relative ease.

Timing became a little issue. I went on line to check cooking times and figured the 20 minute per pound at 325 degrees rule would put us at about 6 and a half hours for our roughly 20 pound mass of fowl flesh. That would put our Turducken-to-table time at roughly 10:30 PM. Online estimates ranged up to 8 hours.

What the hell – we had plenty of wine, great company, the kids were playing video games. We were basking in the friendship of our gathering. For a couple of hours. Then people started voting thmselves off the island.

Our son, Landen, had arranged to go to Game Crazy to get a new game and then go over to a friend’s house for a sleep over. He left with my wife Kate. Then my bis partner John’s kids were getting a little uncomfortable, bored and wanted to leave. They headed out. Rick, Rob and Samantha decided to ‘cut a chogie’ (leave). We coerced them to stay a bit longer to watch a video of our band performing a few years ago at Copia. Hunger won out and they headed off to Taco Bell for sustenance. Kate came home and headed upstairs to work on her computer and watch TV in bed.

I had won! I was the ultimate Turducken Survivor!

When you see me pulling the mass out of the oven in the video I am in my pajamas. The cheesecloth stuck to the skin of the turkey and, despite my vast culinary training and skills, the whole thing was a mess. It was like pulling old gauze off of a massive 3rd degree burn, taking skin and flesh with it. I felt like Julia Child when she flipped a frittata and half of it ended up on the stove. I, like her, pushed everything back together and served it up as best as I could. IT WAS REALLY DELICIOUS! Alas, no one to share in my glory. I had won indeed, but was alone (sniff).

So here are my learnings:
· Have fun and don’t sweat the way the finished product looks.
· Consider sewing and tying your Turducken to avoid cheesecloth cling.
· Start at daybreak and make sure not to have friends and family show up at that time unless they are in it for the duration.
· Provide meals and beverages at appropriate times if anyone is sticking out the entire ordeal with you.
· Leftover Turducken makes a great hostess gifts, stocking stuffer, breakfast meat (sautéed with some stuffing and served with scrambled eggs).
· If you end up as the sole Turducken Survivor no one will be there to admonish you when you eat the pie and whipped cream leftovers.

So celebrate! You too can be the ultimate Turducken Survivor!