United States of America

May 22, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Posted in North America & The Caribbean | Leave a comment

Oh boy, I was certainly looking forward to this.   The US is such a diverse country with so many fantastic foods it was extremely difficult to decide which one.   Is is ribs?  a Maine chowder? Creole food? the humble burger? fried chicken? donuts?

Of course it eventually came to me:  the quintessential US dish eaten across the country would have to be a  Thanksgiving dinner.      A traditional harvest feast, with lots of roast food.  And pies.  Lots of pies.

The thing is, a turkey dinner on its own isn’t really *that* American.   What we really wanted to do to make this stand out was make it an utter meal of excess.   No other country in the world really does excess like the Americans.  They practically invented crass.   They are the home of super-sizing, fries on the side of everything and a peculiar fascination with horrid orange cheese.   When we have a chicken as either quarter, half or whole, they order chicken in buckets.

So, we needed to supersize the thanksgiving.   In a flash of inspiration, I elected to tackle the infamous Turducken.   The Turducken is a ballotine, where one stuffs a chicken into a duck into a turkey. All birds are de-boned first, but bound up, the parcel appears to be a turkey.  Slicing into the “turkey”, one then carves straight through into the layers of meat.  Five kilograms of meat.

Truly, the Turducken is not that widespread – plenty of Americans I know have never heard of it.   It’s suggested that it’s an ancient concept and not truly American.  However,  only in the US can one get a turducken by mail order.

We also planned to accompany the meal with as many other American foods as we could find – pecan pie, apple pie, pumpkin pie, grits (what the hell are grits), American beer & wine, and I was hoping – nay, praying – that we could source some Ezy Cheese.

The Plan

This was a monster of a job.    A turducken requires that you start with a deboned turkey, a deboned duck and a deboned chicken.   Deboning poultry is a non-trivial activity that requires a good understanding of avian anatomy.   After looking up a view how-to videos on YouTube, I decided I couldn’t possibly tackle this.   Claire offered to help but suggested the butcher would do it for us.   She was right – Chris went to the butcher, explained the concept, and after he stopped laughing he agreed to give it a go.

The parcel of meat was picked up on Friday, for around $100.   5.2kg.   Now, as a family of four we’re not going to plough through this so we asked 21 of our friends over.  This had the added bonus of a range of dishes being brought by Jenny, Liz, Claire, Sharon and Belinda.

Maple syrup bacon-encrusted Turducken

Ingredients

  • One chicken, deboned
  • One duck, deboned
  • One turkey, deboned
  • lots of streaky bacon
  • maple syrup

1.  Lay the turkey flat.  Lay the duck flat on top.  Lay the chicken flat on top of the duck.  Add stuffing between layers or around the cavities.  Roll it up and tie up with string.     Ask butcher to debone and assemble turducken.

2.   Turn the oven on to 100°C.   This is not a typo.  One hundred degrees.

3.   Lay bacon over the top of the turducken.  Place on a rack in a large dish – deep enough to catch a lot of fat (we got several bowls worth)

4.   Roast for around 8 hours.   One web site suggested 1.5 hours per kilo.  However the rules are you must use a meat thermometer and get the inner core to 75° C.   Anything less and you’re looking at a dose of food poisoning.

5.  Half an hour before the end, liberally douse the bird in maple syrup.

6. Rest the bird for half an hour before serving.

The Event

I put the bird collage into the oven @ 11:30am, hoping for a 7 hour roast to have us ready for 7pm.   However, the temperature climbed ever so slowly.   By 7:30pm we had 14 kids going mad with hunger and a group of half tanked adults rationalising whether 75° C is overkill and “c’mon, how bad could it be!” Budweiser clearly doesn’t improve one’s thought process.

We served a big mess of poultry @8pm, having just crested  72° C.   To accompany this we had

  • Mashed potato with bacon (Belinda)
  • Mashed potato with garlic
  • Fish pie (Liz)
  • Vegetable pie (Belinda)
  • Sweet potato casserole with pecans (Claire)
  • Roast potatoes
  • Budweiser & Miller beer
  • a Washington State cabernet sauvignon

followed by

  • pumpkin pie (Jenny)
  • pecan pie (Liz)
  • apple pie (Sharon & Chris)
  • dessert wines and lemoncello

The Outcome

The turducken was a huge hit, mostly comedic effect.  It looked ridiculous and tasted like…well, a big flavoursome plate of poultry.  The side dishes were excellent and the deserts sublime.  I’m not going to reproduce the recipes here (er, ’cause I don’t have them), but the big callouts were

– the pumpkin pie was the biggest surprise.   Sounds disgusting but was awesome.  Supposed to be made with pumpkin from a can, but of course plain old *cooking it yourself* still worked

– pecan pie was spectacular

– Budweiser is only narrowly not as abysmal as Miller.  I’d rather drink boot polish.  Or that wine.  Although the wine was so awful its a close call.

Thanks to Pete, Jenny, Georgia, Charlotte, Matt, Stu, Belinda, Mitch, Alanah, Daniel, Kai, Sharon, Lashay, Jasmine, Liz, Renee, Monique, Bianca, Andy, Claire & Sophie.     Oh, and according to one US site, we should have allowed 0.5kg per person.   Had we done that, we would have had a 12 kg bird (or 2 & 1/2 times as much food).

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