Bird of plenty

Published 8:16 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Turducken, the Oddball Invention Gaining Popularity Around the U.S. just might be the most fun you’ll have at the dinner table.

A few years ago, some enterprising soul decided that it would be a good idea to change up the traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas feast. That person must have liked all the food that was found on the traditional holiday table – Turkey, duck, and chicken, all the fixin’s, and then they came upon it: why not roast the chicken inside the duck inside the turkey? It was just crazy enough to work. The Turducken was born on that fateful day when there wasn’t enough room in the oven for all three birds side by side!

All this creation needed was a silly enough name that people would stop and say to them, “What the heck is a Turducken?” That curiosity has sparked something of a surge in popularity with this particular taste treat, and it’s all thanks to… well, no one’s quite sure who got it started. There are records of “nested bird roasts” from Europe in the 19th century, while the noted chef Paul Prudhomme is said to have created the first in America sometime around 1983.

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Later, it was noted that a farmer had in fact created the first Turducken when asking a butcher in his town to prepare the partially deboned birds together for roasting. This latter tidbit was provided by the Nov. 2005 issue of National Geographic Magazine, lending slightly more credence to this explanation than to that of the word of mouth which is the previous explanation.

Whatever the case may be, Turducken has come fully into the limelight as the oddball treat that just about everyone wants to try. Particularly popular in Louisiana, Turducken can be found today in specialty stores across the United States, as well as via mail order, or can be prepared at home by stalwart chefs willing to learn how to debone a chicken, turkey, and a duck. After that, it’s little more than stuffing and roasting that gets the Turducken’s goose cooked.

Historically, the Turducken is only the latest of what is called a “nested bird roast.” The originators of these roasts were mostly European (though nested Turduckens are not seen outside the United States today,) and were largely game birds. There is a record of one nested bird roast at a royal feast containing at least nineteen birds, many of which are endangered today, making replication of this particular meal quite impossible. The combination of birds was, from smallest to largest: a Garden Warbler inside an Ortolan Bunting inside a lark, inside a thrush, inside a quail, inside a Lapwing, inside a Plover, inside a Partridge, inside a Woodcock, inside a Teal, inside a Guinea Fowl, inside a duck, inside a chicken, inside a pheasant, inside a goose, inside a turkey, inside a Bustard. Quite a feat, even if the smallest bird, the Garden Warbler could only be stuffed with a single Olive.