With extended family that includes two Johnson & Wales University cooking school graduates, I have come to count on their gourmet contributions to every potluck holiday meal.
But this past Thanksgiving, Channing and Wendy Bennett of Wilsonville outdid themselves - though their entree hardly sounded appealing the first time I heard it in October.
When Channing first announced plans for "Turducken," I was tempted to respond with "Gesundheit!"
Little did I know that such a funny-sounding dish - an amalgam of turkey, duck and chicken - would yield such a rich fusion of texture, flavor and aroma.
The sensory treat began even before the first bite, as Channing carved into the bird-within-a-bird-within-a-bird after 5 1/2 hours of roasting. The first slice fell away to reveal a colorful, culinary wall of stratified ingredients.
At the core was the fluffy basmati rice pilaf with which Channing had stuffed the fresh chicken, followed by the whitish meat of that bird.
Next came a dense, black layer of sauteed shiitake and porcini mushrooms, the "stuffing" for the rich, dark, wild duck breast surrounding the chicken.
Then came my own contribution to the dish, a vein of grainy, golden, celery-studded cornbread stuffing.
Finally came the outer layer - a perfectly browned, 20-pound fresh turkey.
While the dish sounds intimidating, those game for an impressive Christmas dinner entree should know that the process actually breaks down into several fairly simple steps.
The biggest challenge for the non-chefs among us is likely to be the first step: deboning the birds.
Because of his culinary training, Channing was able to easily do this himself, entirely boning out the chicken and removing all but the drumstick and wing bones of the turkey.
Those less skilled with sharp knives may prefer to leave this to a butcher at the grocery store or meat market where they buy the birds. A quick phone survey of local stores showed most are willing to provide this service for little or no charge, so long as they have some advance notice.
For nonhunters, another obstacle may be coming up with affordable duck.
Wendy Bennett, a cooking instructor at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, found commercially packaged duck breast at a grocery store, but it was $16 a pound.
Channing, an attorney, is lucky enough to have duck hunter John Pollino among his Salem law firm colleagues, so we enjoyed a free, local bird. (If we needed proof our duck was amateur-bagged, it came when my mother-in-law encountered a bit of buckshot in one Turducken bite.)
Sanitation is the final challenge in a preparing a dish that involves so much raw poultry, Channing noted.
He carefully washed each bird in cold water, then placed them on a large sheet of clean plastic matting for the assembly process.
He repeatedly washed his own hands, as well, taking time to do so each time he handled a new ingredient.
Recipes for the feast follow. (The stuffings should be prepared a day ahead so as to be thoroughly chilled when the Turducken is assembled.)
Turducken a la
Channing and Wendy Bennett
1 fresh turkey (16 to 20 pounds), deboned except for wings and drumsticks
Salt and pepper to taste
1 fresh roasting chicken (2 to 3 pounds), completely deboned
1 recipe Basmati Rice Pilaf With Sausage (recipe follows)
1 recipe Sauteed Shiitake and Porcini Mushrooms (recipe follows)
1 wild duck breast (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 recipe Corn Bread and Water Chestnut Stuffing (recipe follows)
2 large carrots, chopped into 1 1/2 -inch chunks
2 large onions, roughly chopped
Assemble Turducken the night (or at least 6 hours) before serving.
Working on a clean surface, place turkey on its back, breast facing ceiling. Salt and pepper cavity, if desired.
Stuff chicken with basmati rice (recipe follows). Slide stuffed chicken into turkey cavity, back end first, breast side down (opposite position of turkey.)
Spoon sauteed mushrooms (recipe follows) into the turkey cavity and press around outside of chicken. Place duck breast on top of mushrooms on top of chicken.
Spoon cornbread stuffing (recipe follows) into remaining space inside turkey cavity.
Truss bird with cotton twine, pulling wings and drumsticks tight against bird.
Place chopped vegetables in bottom of large roasting pan. Place turkey atop the vegetables. (This keeps bird above juices, so it roasts rather than stews.)
Refrigerate overnight or until ready to begin cooking.
About 6 hours before serving, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the bird in the roasting pan in the oven. Bake for 3 hours, then reduce heat to 275 degrees.
Continue baking until meat thermometer inserted through turkey and duck breast into chicken registers 165 degrees. (For our 20-pound turkey, this was another 2 1/2 hours, for a total cooking time of 5 1/2 hours.)
Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.
Basmati Rice Pilaf With Sausage
The "Louisiana Cajun" flavor of this stuffing is an unexpected yet refreshing foil for poultry.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 medium onion
2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
1/3 pound smoked pork shoulder sausage
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
2 Louisiana hot sausages, chopped to 1/4-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
In large saucepan, heat olive oil on medium-high heat. Fry onions until translucent, gradually stirring in rice once the onions begin to turn golden brown. Continue stirring constantly until rice is lightly browned.
Still stirring, add all the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff rice, and cool.
In a separate pan, fry sausages until golden brown. Stir into rice. Salt and pepper to taste.
and Porcini Mushrooms
10 shiitake mushrooms
10 porcini mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or shaved
Roughly chop mushroom caps into 1/3- to 1/2 -inch pieces.
In a small pan, heat olive oil and garlic until garlic begins to brown. Stir in mushrooms and saute until tender.
Cornbread and Water Chestnut Stuffing
3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
2/3 cup safflower oil
2 cups butter
2 cups chopped sweet onion
3 cups chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
2 cans water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons crushed sage
2 teaspoons crushed thyme
1 carton or can (16 ounces) chicken broth (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-12-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal and baking powder. Stir with fork to mix.
Add milk, eggs and oil. Beat on low until just blended. Turn into pan and bake until lightly browned (35 to 40 minutes.) To cool, place pan on a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or Dutch oven, melt butter on medium heat. Add onion and celery, sauteing only until celery is bright green and tender-crisp.
Remove from heat and stir in water chestnuts.
Remove cornbread from pan in large chucks, crumbling loosely into vegetables, tossing with fork between each addition of bread.
Sprinkle in the salt, sage and thyme, and toss.
Taste and correct seasonings, if needed.
For moister stuffing, stir in some or all of the broth.
Karen McCowan can be reached at 338-2422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A cross-section shows the layers of rice pilaf at the center, the dark mushroom stuffing, the duck, the cornbread stuffing and finally, the turkey.
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|Title Annotation:||Food; Turkey, duck and chicken make an exotic holiday feast: Turducken|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Dec 17, 2003|
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