Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turducken — The Ultimate in Thanksgiving Gorging

This is an article I wrote back in 2005. Tis the season...

We the people have been known to take our eating habits to the extreme. From fad diets such as Atkins and South Beach, to having the highest obesity rate in the world, we either love to starve ourselves or strive to be the most gluttonous people on the planet.

Let’s talk Turducken. A turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken. Turducken is the latest Thanksgiving craze and is on its way to becoming more popular than the much loved fried turkey. However, the Cajun concocted turducken has been around for quite some time, it has only recently become something to serve at the Thanksgiving table.

The turducken is said to have been invented in the 1980s by famous chef Paul Prudhomme. According to Prudhomme, he first started making Turduckens in the 60s and began manufacturing the dish in the 80s. Today, prepared Turduckens sell from around $80-$115 dollars (not including shipping) and are increasingly gaining popularity around Thanksgiving time.

If you are one of the many brave meat lovers in the world, you can make this “tri-brid” from scratch at home, as long as you have a good set of knives, an accurate oven and about 15 hours. And if you’re a vegetarian, PETA activist, or just plain faint of heart, please read on at your own discretion.

First, you’ll need a 20-25 pound turkey, a five-pound duck and a four-pound chicken, according to Prudhomme’s recipe at Chef Paul's website.

Next comes the blood, sweat and tears. You must de-bone all three of these birds because one of the unique things about a turducken is that you can slice right through it, unlike the traditional Thanksgiving turkey where you must cut around the carcass to get to the meat.

De-boning the birds is difficult and only gets easier with practice, which is probably why many people choose to buy their turduckens. If cracking the bones of an innocent, dead bird makes you ill, check out for information on buying one.

After you de-bone the turkey, the duck, and chicken will be much easier. When you have finally made all three birds boneless it’s time to concentrate on the stuffings. Yes, I said stuffings, with an s. A turducken wouldn’t be completely gluttonous without three different kinds of stuffing — one for each bird. You’ll need about 12 cups of dressing for a 25-pound bird. Chef Paul’s traditional turducken recipe requires andouille sausage stuffing, cornbread stuffing and finally, shrimp stuffing.

The assembly of the turducken is the fun part. Laying the boneless turkey flat on a surface, thoroughly season with 1/3 of the seasoning called for in Prudhomme’s recipe. Pack the cold andouille sausage stuffing into the leg, wing and thigh cavities of the turkey, being careful not to overstuff, as overstuffing will cause the leg and wing to burst open during cooking. After packing the cavities, spread an even layer of stuffing over the rest of the meat, using about seven cups of stuffing so it’s about three-quarters of an inch thick.

Next, place the duck, skin side down, on top of the dressing so that it lies evenly over the turkey and is about one-half of an inch thick. Rub with seasoning and use about 4 cups of the cornbread stuffing to cover the duck meat.

Finally, lay the chicken skin side down on top of the cornbread stuffing, season and stuff with the shrimp stuffing (about 2 cups).

Once you are finished stuffing smaller critters into bigger critters and cramming all three birds with stuffing, your next step will require a team effort. You’ll need two people to squeeze the right and left side of the turkey around the other birds like you do to your luggage when you pack too heavily for a trip; one to sew the bird up and try to make it resemble the turkey it once was, and another to hold open the oven door while the rest of you strong-arm your meal into a 190 degree Fahrenheit oven. The turducken will need about 12-13 hours of roasting time and about an hour to cool. So be sure to have a selection of appetizers on hand for your drooling guests.

If you follow the recipe from Chef Paul, you can feed up to 34 guests. Having a larger party than that? In Texas, where everything is bigger, they have the pigturducken, which is, you guessed it, a chicken squeezed into a duck, squeezed into a turkey, squeezed into a pig.

Turduckens are the newest in extreme cooking and because they are so challenging, they are so rewarding to eat. Although turduckens may not be suitable for the flavorfully or carnivorously challenged, your more adventurous guests are sure to eat it up.

If you think you have the time, energy, strength and patience to take on a turducken, go to Chef Paul's website to shock, astonish or simply mortify your guests at your next dinner party.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Macaroni n' Cha Cha Cheese

Ahhh...the things Macaroni n' Cheese can do for the soul. It cures depression, anxiety, stress, erectile dysfunction (yes, indeedy), etc. It's creamy deliciousness can turn a bad day into a day of bliss. It can also rid you of that cheese that's about to spoil if you don't do something with it soon. Here's my recipe for the best Mac n' Cha Cha Cheese:

1 box of macaroni (boiled according to package instructions)
6 slices of cooked bacon
3 tablespoons of flour
3 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of milk (for extra creamy m&c I use 1/2 cup of half n half & 1/2 cup of milk)
Then for the cheese, I use whatever's in my fridge. For this particular recipe I used about 2 oz. of blue cheese, 2 oz. of Gruyere and about 1 cup of a cheddar/monterey jack mix.
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt n pepper

Cook macaroni, strain and set aside. In a large saucepan melt butter and saute onion until soft. Mix in garlic and cook for an additional minute. Mix in flour to create a roux. Cook flour for about 2 minutes so you don't get a gluish taste. Add in milk and bring to a boil, stirring like a mad man so as to not scold the milk. Reduce mixture to a simmer and allow to thicken.

Once the mixture is thick enough that it coats a wooden spoon, add in cheese and stir until cheese is melted and mixture is creamy goodness. Add in cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Then mix in crumbled bacon bits. (Do not use baco's or I will hunt you down and kill you).

Add macaroni to the cheese mixture (I add macaroni in slowly. Sometimes I have enough cheese sauce for the entire box of macaroni, sometimes I don't, so I eyeball it). Transfer mac n' cheese mix to a large casserole dish. Top with the breadcrumbs, spreading an even, light layer to the top. Top breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese and lightly drizzle olive oil over the top of the casserole dish to make sure the breadcrumbs brown.

Cook in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are browned.

Mmmm....Macaroni n' Cha Cha Cheese!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pizza Pizza A food I crave on a consistent basis. It doesn't matter if it's from Papa Johns, the Italian restaurant down the street, or the comfort of my own kitchen. Once the word pizza is spoken, it's all I can think about. But lately, I'm like every other American - I'm trying to save money, cut costs, NOT break the bank. So I've been experimenting with my own pizzas. If you're not a total foodie like me, pizza can be really cheap to make. It's yeast, flour, olive oil, water, and then whatever toppings you like. A can of tomato sauce and some cheese can make one of the simplest, yet most comforting pizzas.

I started off on the simple route. Cheese, maybe some pepperoni. If I got a wild hair, I'd throw on some mushrooms. But lately I've been trying to put anything I can find on pizza. Here are a few of my favorites:

Cajun Chicken with Pesto, Tomatoes Red Onion, Colby Jack and Mozzerella Cheese.

This is basically the same pizza but with Shrimp and Mozzerella rather than Colby Jack.

And finally, the latest, greatest creation. Shrimp & Scallops sauteed in butter & garlic with a pesto sauce and goat cheese and mozzerella. The goat cheese made this pizza so gourmet tasting. Topped with green onions for color. This pizza was DELISH.

Pizza has got to be one of my favorite foods to prepare because it's so versatile. You can pretty much top it with anything. Any type of cheese, meat or veggie. There isn't anything that doesn't go with pizza. Once you get the dough down (which I think I've finally done thanks to a few tweaks to my New Basics cookbook recipe, my kickass Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, and my oven that fortunately allows me to preheat to 550 degrees).

I guess my point for this blog is...if you love pizza as much as I do. Don't be afraid to make it at home. I will stress that your first couple of trys should be simple pies. I know my first few crusts were a lot like eating cardboard. So here's the recipe that works best for me:

1 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups of flour (plus more for your counter and rolling pin)
2 tbsps of olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine water, yeast and flour into your Kitchenaid mixer (no I'm not getting money from Kitchenaid). Mix well. Add oil and salt and allow to mix for a good 5 minutes. This dough will be a little on the wet side, so remember that flour is your friend!

Place dough on a floured surface and knead a few times. For about 2 minutes (there's no way I would ever knead ANYTHING for 15 minutes). Tranfer dough to a lightly oiled (I spray mine with olive oil pam), glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm dark area and allow to rise for about 2 hours (keep your eye on it though, it could take over a room if you allow it to!)

Right before you cook the pizza, punch down the dough and roll out onto your pizza pan. Let this crust rise for another 15 minutes. Top with whatever you please and place it in the oven until the cheese is melty and the crust is golden brown.

And on that note...I'm off to hijack some items in my fridge for my next pizza creation.