Turducken

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it something else entirely ungodly?

We’ll go for the third option here.

It was Midwinter Christmas and, following a decision a few weeks earlier and most likely assisted by the fine beers available at Goldings Freedive, Turducken was the dish of the day.

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I like to think of Turducken more as a Frankenducken. An unwitting turkey becomes host to both an entire chicken and, in our case, four duck breasts, evolving into a bulging meat sack that is neither bird nor beast, but is definitely dinner.

I have to say our Frankenducken may never have got off the ground (so to speak…sadly for all birds involved, their flying days were well and truly over) had it not been for the wisdom and generosity of YouTube, in particular this aptly named ‘How To Make A Turducken’ clip by Armand Ferrante, who happened to be crowned Wholefoods Best Butcher in the US in 2012.

And thus, all research was completed, the de-boned and de-frosted poultry was collected from the butcher, a poultry lacer was purchased, and the hour of truth had arrived. Our merry Mid Winter Christmas party gathered in the rented holiday home’s kitchen to look on in horrified fascination. A hush fell over the group.

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Constructing a turducken is not pretty to watch, but it certainly is interesting. We were blessed with the culinary skills and can-do attitude of Chef and Chief Sommelier Jeremy, who began by splaying out the deboned turkey on the bench and generously slathering the upturned surface with stuffing.

Next, the chicken is laid out across the turkey, with more slathering of stuffing, and finally the four duck breasts (de-skinned) are laid out across the top.

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Here’s the bit where you need the poultry lacer. No, I had never heard of such a thing either, but we concluded it sounded much more sophisticated than’meat needle,’ the name we had assigned to this tool in earlier planning sessions. The Frankenducken comes to be when the turkey is sewn back up together with the chicken, stuffing and duck inside. The poultry lacer works a little like a corset, with the metal spikes pinning each half of the unfortunate bird together and providing eyelets for the twine that sews it up. The chef will need some willing helpers at this point.

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The appearance of the metal spikes and stitching does nothing to dispel any thoughts of Frankenstein’s monster. Here we have our final product, pre-cooking. There was much sniggering, the exact cause of which I will leave to your imagination as you gaze upon this sight.

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There are a number of schools of thought on how one should cook one’s Frankenducken. My main concern was reliability. I did not want a raw bird on our hands, nor a house of Christmas revellers struck down with salmonella.  And so, I found myself tiptoeing around the kitchen like a little Christmas elf early in the morning, putting our Frankenducken in the oven at roughly 110 degrees celsius.

This seemed terribly low to me, but it was most effective. Our turducken took about 4 and a half hours to reach the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees farenheit and maintained its heat for several hours happily nestled in a layer of foil.

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Now, for the most important question that is no doubt on everyone’s minds…how did it taste? Quite delicious! The low temperature cooking left all meat moist and tender, with bacon layers on the turkey breast crisping up pleasingly.

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I’m wondering if we should try a goose next year.

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Pollo alla Romana

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Bacon, chicken, red wine…what’s not to love?

Forgive my absence; I’ve been on a food writing course at the weekends over May and June, which has taken up all of the food writing time in my life.

I’m back with a vengeance however, and with a few new bits and pieces for Lick Your Plate.  This post dedicated to Pollo alla Romana, or Roman Chicken, stems from a class exercise on re-writing classic recipes in one’s own style.

I have to say I had not heard of Pollo alla Romana before this little adventure, but reliable sources, especially the lovely Rachel Eats blog which is all about eating and living in Rome (jealous much?), pit it as a Roman classic.

And I say jealous much because I fell totally and utterly in love with Rome when I was lucky enough to visit, and this love made Pollo Alla Romana jump out at me as a suitable classic to tinker with.

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To make my version of Pollo Alla Romana you will need:

  • 1 x whole chicken, cleaned and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 50 grams pancetta or streaky bacon
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 600 grams fresh tomatoes, chopped (save the juice!)
  • 3 red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Yikes, was my first thought, a whole chicken cut into pieces?  Yes indeed, and with the help of Chef Tony and his YouTube clip, let me assure you it can be done.  It’s a little brutal and if you’re inexperienced in such things like I am, there’s quite a bit of wrenching and cracking.

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Heat the oil in a heavy pan with a lid.  The one featured is known in my household as ‘The UFO’ on account of its similarity to a flying saucer when it has its lid on and is perched on the kitchen shelf.

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Brown the chicken pieces in the pan, doing this in batches if you need to.  Remove them and set aside.

Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan, stirring to stop it sticking and to scrape up any of those delicious meaty bits that stick to the bottom.

When the pancetta or bacon becomes fragrant and releases its fat, add the garlic and cook for five minutes.

Pour in the wine and let it bubble up, then add the tomatoes with their reserved juice and the peppers and cook for about five minutes until they start to soften.

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Return the chicken to the pan (it will look full!), season with the salt and ground black pepper as suits your tastes and place the lid on the pan, leaving it slightly ajar.

Turn the heat right down and simmer gently, giving the pan a stir from time to time to ensure nothing sticks.  It is ready when the sauce coats the back of a spoon – about 45 minutes.

Stir in the chopped parsley and serve.  We had ours with large hunks of fresh wholemeal bread and it was a suitably hearty winter fare.  Pasta, polenta, or the less Italian mashed potato, would be suitable partners too in my opinion.

Buon appetito readers.

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