The original American holiday has arrived. The winter winds are bringing a flurry of family fun. The Macy’s Day Parade floats are out of storage and meandering through New York in anticipation of the holiday harbinger, Santa. There will soon be a parade in your own home— the relentless parade of relatives through your front door. There’s pressure to impress, but never fear! We’re here to show you how to release some of that stress by unleashing it on the U.S. bird population.
The Turducken, sensationalized by branding phenomenon John Madden, is the product of a long history of Matryoshka-style bird dishes. An 1807 French recipe for rôti sans pareil (roast without equal) called for up to 17 different types of birds, starting with the emu-like bustard and finally nesting down to a garden warbler. In the UK, where flavor isn’t a huge issue, the Yorkshire Christmas Pie features a duck, a chicken and a pigeon. Thankfully, the American tradition has whittled down the endless options to the Turducken— uncomplicated and maximally tasty. It is also the ultimate pairing of cuisine and self-storage: Two smaller birds efficiently stored in a turkey-shaped storage unit.
In the spirit of American efficiency, here’s a quick breakdown of your Thanksgiving Turducken necessities. We wouldn’t deign to tell you how to flavor your stuff, so we’re sticking to simple Turducken mechanics.
Cornish game hen, around 3lbs.
A duck, 5-6lbs.
Step 1: Deboning. Unless your family is the kind that loves the crunchy splinters, your first (and most intensive) task will be to debone each of the birds. That’s an entire how-to on its own, so check out this comically fast video complete with motivational 90s eurohouse. A couple giblets of advice: Don’t try to debone in one skillful samurai slice. Many small cuts will be both safer and more effective. Also, start with the smaller birds so you have the hang of it by the time you make it to the turkey.
Note: If you get your meat from a butcher, he or she may be able to do the deboning for you.
Step 2: Preservation. Prepare a brine from preserving agents like salt water and sugar, and refrigerate your meat overnight. This is important as it will allow the flavors to mix and mingle and argue their political views and prepare not to speak to one another for one more year.
Step 3: Assembly. This is the fun part. Lay out your deboned turkey and spread your stuffing over it, adding butter or oil to help it stick. Spread your duck out on top, following the bird-stuffing-bird pattern until you’ve spread stuffing over your chicken. Fold everything into the turkey skin, and begin trussing the turkey at the neck with metal skewers. Every other skewer should draw together the duck and chicken skin. Once it’s all skewered up, flip the bird (literally, though you may be tempted to take it figuratively depending on your Thanksgiving company) in the pan so the seam is face-down.
Step 4: Cooking. With the oven preheated between 300-350 F, roast your creation for 3-5 hours until the meat thermometer reads 165 F. Splash the bird with pan juice every hour or so to keep it from drying.
Once it’s ready, slice it down the middle and let the smell drive everyone crazy. That is the smell of patriotism at its most delicious. Like the tiny chicken, your holiday apprehensions have been engulfed by a duck of accomplishment, in turn tenderly embraced by a turkey of apt metaphors. There is just bonus more step that would complete your ascension into American legend: Wrapping the whole thing in bacon.