Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turducken Fest III (part 1)

Wow!  Turducken has come and gone.  I suppose a 7 bird meal with 75 guests deserves and extra long post. Ha ha ha!  I'm going to break this post up into the cooking part and the partying part.  Here is part one:

  Turducken, a dish name that always draws the "what's that?" question.  Simply it is a turkey that is stuffed with a duck, which in turn is stuffed with a chicken.  Thus the unoriginal name TURkey +DUCK+chiCKEN = TURDUCKEN.  A longer explanation includes describing how it is a cajun dish created by chef's from New Orleans.  This is where the accents, flavors, and combinations of ingredients get their inspiration.  The recipe we have been using is from Chef Paul Prudhomme and is available online. 

  Why turducken?  Well simply, I do not particularly like turkey.  I think it is dry and boring.  Four years ago my roommates and I held a small Thanksgiving party the Sunday before the holiday for some of our friends.  We do it before so people can make it and still get home to their families for the holiday itself.  The next year Kova told me that I should make turducken because it would be fun to make and taste better than plain old turkey.  I agreed to give it a shot and the turducken fest was born.  Our guest number has been ever increasing so this year in order to feed a possible 90 guests we decided to make two turduckens and a regular turkey.  I delegated responsibility for the turkey to Brian since I felt that watching two birds was enough.  I'm going to put the ingredients list at the bottom of this so that it does not get in the way.

  Where do you begin?  Well a little mental preparation might be in order.  This is a long process with many steps that all pull together at the end to create the turducken.  Set aside a full day, bring your organization, patients, and best effort.  And bring friends to help you out.  At this point I sort of break the process down into 4 stages: deboning, chopping, creating stuffing, building the bird.  There are three stuffings, one for each bird.  There is also the gravy, I will put that on last although it's something that can be going on concurrently with the main bird creation.  For the sake of time and words I did not really go into the specific steps, those are in the recipe but wrote this as more of a guide and tried to hit certain pitfalls that you should avoid.
  Deboning is a macabre process.  Your hands end up covered in raw poultry and you get a thorough lesson in bird anatomy.  I usually cheat a bit on the turkey and leave the full lower leg bone (they advise to break it and leave half) which gives the bird a bid more shape.  I strongly recommend getting a deboning knife.  I have not done this, but have always used knives that are very similar, and very sharp.  Sharpen your knife before you cut, it makes a huge difference.  It usually takes me about one hour per bird, so bring your patience.  This year I took a shower after completing the deboning, I strongly recommend this just to relax a bit and really clean up.  You also need to thoroughly clean the area where you did the deboning after completing the process.

  Chopping is a simple process.  Cut, cut, cut and then cut some more.  All of the stuffings are based on the combination of diced green peppers, celery and onions with butter, garlic and bay leaves.  This year we added a food processor, it won MVP for production and saved countless man-hours.  Paying up and getting a premium one was definitely worth it since the high end one comes with multiple blades, including slicing and grating ones.  The slicing blade is perfect for vegetables.  I'll give further info on the food processor in another blog entry.  Anyways, for our production this year I upped the stuffings from the recommended quantities, so we made 4 times the shrimp, 4 times the sausage and 6 times cornbread.  So we chopped some 50+ cups of onions, etc.

  Making the stuffing is where it starts to get fun, i.e. when you can start taste testing.  If you plan to increase the number of stuffings like we did you may need two pots to cook them.  I basically cooked half in each pot and combined them at the end on the tray.  Each stuffing basically goes melt some butter, cook the onions until translucent, cook the peppers and celery.  At this point you add the meat, or cornbread, then the seasoning and melt in the remaining butter.  For the two meat stuffings you add the bread crumbs.  This year we made our own bread crumbs, I think this really improved the taste, but the description of how to do that is going into another blog entry.  After creating each stuffing we had to clean the pots to resuse them for the next stuffing.

  Assembling the bird is relatively simple although having an extra set or two of hands really helps.  I had one set of hands dedicated to handling poultry and the others to shovel stuffing and move the clean goods.  Basically start with the chicken put it in the duck and than in turn in the turkey.  Don't over stuff the birds or they wont fit.  Connect them all with skewers and put them in the cooking container.  Two years ago I picked up industrial sized pans for the birds which work great because they have handles that make it easy to carry and pleny of space to hold the drippings.  The disposable bird tins will overflow with juice and drip all over the over.  The bird cooks for 8 hours at 225 degrees, so make sure you get it in the oven early. 

  The gravy is a truly unique recipe.  It is sweet potato eggplant gravy and can taste delicious.  The first step is to put the veggies and garlic in the oven and cook them down for a few hours.  Then you peel and dice them and store for the next day.  At the same time you create stock from the extra bones and store this.  The next day it takes about 30 minutes.  Reheat the stock, then blend in the veggies and puree it.  Add cream and some turducken drippings.  I think this gravy tastes terrific, the problem is it comes out orangish gray, which looks unappealing.  This year, it was much more of a pure orange which I attributed to using slightly more sweet potatoes and completely cooking them.  It had record popularity most likely due to the more enticing coloring. 

   This year prep took about 13 hours, but it was an easy pace with a solid hour dinner break and a 30 minute lunch break.  The process is long and tedious, but the result is worth every ounce of effort and then some.  If you have any questions or need further advice please let me know, I have now made 5 turduckens.

And now for the ingredients list as promised:

1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
1 duckling (5 to 6 pounds)
1 turkey (15 to 20 pounds)
2 lbs. duck or chicken giblets
1 1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled
9 cups celery, chopped (total)
7 tablespoons garlic, minced (total)
8 cups green bell peppers, chopped
12 cups onions, chopped (total)
2 garlic heads, whole
4 1/2 lbs. medium onions, whole (about 6)
3 lbs. sweet potatoes, whole (about 4)
2 lbs. whole eggplants (about 2)
3 whole eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
5 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
7 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
7 bay leaves
3/4 cup corn flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
6 cups very fine dry breadcrumbs, unseasoned (preferably French bread)
1 (15x11inch) baking pan, at least 2 1/4 inches deep
1 pan larger than the 15x11 inch pan
3 metal or bamboo skewers
6 sheet pans
Vegetable oil
Aluminum foil
1 small hammer

Monday, November 15, 2010

Things that make me smile

My obsession from the past week. Darren Criss singing "Teenage Dream" on Glee. Acapella music + Katy Perry + Glee = <3<3! height="385" width="640">

In other news:

I will be there at the midnight opening night showing with my fellow HP fanatics - Maggie, Deb, Kyo and Perryn. I think Maggie and I have seen every HP movie together (well since we've known each other). Nick is sitting this one out. Apparently he has more important things to do (ie sleep) at that hour.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Apples! Apples! Apples!

A few weeks ago, Nick and I tagged along with Brian when he went to Lehigh in Bethleham, PA to visit his girlfriend Liz. Liz and her roommates graciously hosted us on Friday night and gave us a tour of the Lehigh night scene. On Saturday, the four of us went to Strawberry Acres to go apple picking!

We had a blast! And somehow we ended up with close to 70 lbs of apples... 50 of which ended up in Nick's kitchen. Let Iron Chef with apples begin!! Apologies for the lack of pictures of the apple mountain and recipes. I need to get better about taking pictures. My friends have generously shared their favorite apple recipes. So far, we have made 2 apple pies, baked apples, frosted apple bars, and 2 apple cinnamon cake (thanks Maggie!). This week, we will attempt apple sauce and apple butter. After this month, I will not be able to eat apples until next year!