back to the Black Table
               
  THE ROAD TO TURDUCKEN, PART 2.  
   
   
 

The second day of the journey to the heart of turducken is one of brutality and strife, a far cry from the homey warmth of stuffing smells and southern comfort foods.

Be warned, weary cook. The path ahead will be lined with gizzards and innards. It is a road paved in blood and juices. As we venture onward in our quest for turducken, in search of the riddle behind Sonya Thomas' eyes, the images will grow increasingly graphic. You will rip bone from flesh and slice away the very sinews that hold a living thing together, leaving behind huge lumps of meat and nothing more. But through this primal darkness shines a light. That deconstructed chicken, duck and turkey will be molded in a new, glorious visage called turducken.

Turducken is not for the weak of heart, in more ways than just cholesterol, but fear not, concerned traveler -- you are not alone. No, you are not alone. Turducken's popularity is surging, which shouldn't come as a shock, considering the "more is more" mentality that has emerged in the last two decades.

The New York Daily News reported that online sales of the holiday item at Houston-based Cajun Stuff are up 33% this year and the word is getting around. Three years ago, according to Lycos, "turducken" was a mere blip on the radar, regularly beaten by searches for "stuffing recipes." But now, turducken is a holiday tour-de-force, the third most-searched-for holiday item in 2003, trailing only "turkey" and "fried turkey" in the Thanksgiving holiday category.

Without further ado, it's time to baptize the dawn with blood.

The Three Wise Birds.

As the name implies, to make a turducken, you will need a turkey, duck and chicken. Depending on the amount of time you have and number of countries that are coming over, you can go as high as 30 pounds for the turkey and make a monster that makes Dom DeLuise

 
 

look like Michael J. Fox. In this case, the following were used:

The Meats.

In order to stuff that chicken inside a duck and then stuff that inside a turkey, you will have to remove all those pesky bones. This process will be extremely time consuming and messy. In the

 
  end, your kitchen will look like the bar scene in Goodfellas, when Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro take out Billy Batts and get blood all over Ray Liotta's nice new floor. To fully wack and hack these birds, make  
 

sure you have the proper equipment.

The Tools.

With your tools assembled and your meats defrosted, remind yourself that the things you see are impossible to un-see once you've seen them and make sure those knives are razor sharp. It's go time.

 

 
 

I'll Take Your Skeleton Out For $100, Alex.

Deboning an animal can be hard, especially if that animal is alive in your trunk, pounding on the inside of the hood to escape, forcing you to pull over along some deserted road in upstate New York and finish the job. Luckily, supermarkets sell dead, flash frozen birds, thereby eliminating your need for a baseball bat, hammer or handgun, which is a disappointment, really. And while each of the birds has a distinct

 
 

taste, they share a common skeletal structure, which means the same deboning technique applies to all of them, give or take a few pounds. In this case, we will start with the chicken, so no one can tell if we messed up too badly. One final thought: They call it "butchering" for a reason.

Goodbye Chicken, Hello Ribcage.
1.
Taunt the thawed chicken and whisper insane shit into where its head used to be, just to scare it. 2. Cut a long slit directly down the spine and 3. flay open the flesh alongside the ribcage on one side. 4. Move to the other side of the chicken, cutting alongside the

 
 

ribcage, using your fingers and the small knife to scrape the meat from the bone. Roar like a lion and pee on your own couch, to mark your turf.

The Thigh Bone's Connected to the Wet Thing.
With the ribcage exposed, it's now time to move to the lower part of the chicken and rip out those pesky bones in the legs, which 1. you

 
  can see highlighted in white. 2. The first bone you want to remove is connected to the ribcage, which will leave you the drumstick bone, which is highlighted and pointed out. Cutting out these bones is not as easy as it looks because animals have tendons, which look like shoelaces and are very hard to cut. 3. Keep yanking on those bones, screaming and hacking at the tendons until you tear them out of the bird. 4. Once this happens, drink the blood, say a silent devotional to  
 

Cthulhu and tuck all the meat back inside the drumstick, so the neighbors don't get suspicious.

BOOM! Chicken's Gonna Feel That in the Morning.
The turducken's flight into popular consciousness can be traced back to two men: Paul Prudhomme, morbidly obese superchef and self-styled inventor of the dish back in the 1960s and John Madden, mordibly obese NFL football commentator and self-styled turducken missionary.

In 1997, during a Monday Night Football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, Madden ripped apart a

 
  turducken with his bare hands, horrifying co-host Al Michaels just before the start of the second half and giving the bird its first brush with the national spotlight. At the white arrow, 1. continue to cut along the ribcage, until it 2. fully detaches from the flesh, leaving only the 3. breastbone jutting from the carcass. Hack off the wings and make up your own Madden-isms, like, "BANG! He hit that chicken so hard, his bones came out!" 4.  
 

Spike the chicken carcass on the ground, sign it with a Sharpie, make a cell phone call from the end zone and 5. lay out the chicken bones while the refs whistle you for unsportsmanlike conduct. Pay the piddly fines and tape yourself on SportsCenter.

First and 10, Let's Do it Again!
After that little performance, don't be surprised if the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launches a little campaign attacking you. This year, PETA sent Madden a vegetarian friendly feast, including Tofurkey, along with a letter imploring him to switch to more humane eats.

"About 45 million turkeys are now killed each year at Thanksgiving," wrote Dan Shannon, PETA's sports campaign coordinator, in his letter. "Before ending up as the holiday centerpiece, these gentle birds spend five to six months on factory farms, with thousands so tightly packed into a shed they can barely spread their wings. At the end of their miserable lives, the birds are hung upside-down, have their throats slit, and are often scalded alive while still fully conscious."

Be grateful you aren't 1. a fully thawed duck that's 2. been taken out

 
  of the package, 3. along with the neck, organs and pack of orange sauce and 4. fully deboned. 5. Briefly contemplate the cruelties of the slaughterhouse while 6. removing the  
 

fishnet around the turkey, 7. removing the turkey from the bag and 8. removing the bones from the turkey.

It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn.
After deboning three animals, you will have generated a lot of sweat, blood and bones. There will be little bags of organ meats all over the

 
 

house. There will be necks and wings and broken ribcages. As the picture at right shows, you have eviscerated nature's bounty using a big knife and a little knife and if you haven't gone vegetarian yet and still don't give a rolling doodle about animal cruelty, know that the heavenly gates of deliciousness lie just around the bend.

By this point, everything you need to make a turducken is at hand. You will have pounds of boneless turkey, chicken and duck. You will have three different kinds of stuffing. And like Dr. Frankenstein, before a lightning storm, you will

 
 

feel a giddy anticipation to stick all that crap in the oven and eat until those feelings of insecurity and failure wash away in a caloric high tide.

The Final Countdown.

In 1991, almost 12% of the American population was considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Ten years later, 20% of the American population is considered obese, nearly double the amount, and 280,000 morbidly obese people die annually as the result of carrying around that much weight. Estimates maintain that billions of dollars are lost in productivity each year as America's love affair with french fries begins to resemble the one baleen whales have with krill.

While it's impossible to determine how many calories are in a helping of turducken without using some serious scientific gear, according to an estimate from AllRecipes.com, two helpings covers your caloric intake for a whole day. Perhaps this fact should have come to light before started on the road to turducken, but it's too late now. A single serving of turducken has 1,639 calories, 107.2 grams of total fat, 577 milligrams of cholesterol, 539 milligrams of sodium and 156.9 grams of protein.

Considering that this is a rough estimate -- one that doesn't seem to include the affect of stuffing or gravy -- and given that there are about 3,500 calories in a single pound of fat, a single question comes to mind:

Who's hungry?

 

 
 

'Tis the Season
Without any bones, those birds will be nothing more than blobbery masses of tasteless flesh in need of some serious seasoning. While most recipes call for creole or cajun seasonings, feel free to break the rules and make your own by 1. getting together some cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder and whatever else you like. 2. Dump it into a glass and mix it together, then 3. liberally

 
 

season your meats, both inside and out and put them back into the refrigerator until needed.

It's Alive! It's Alive!
On the first day of turducken, you created sausage and oyster stuffing, cornbread stuffing and good 'ol Stove Top stuffing. Take

 
 

these out of the refrigerator and warm them in the microwave, just to make them more malleable and take the chill out -- you'll be using the stuffing to replace the bones inside those birds.

1. Lay the seasoned, boneless turkey on the counter and try not to think of the 90,000 people who the American Association of Bariatric Surgery estimates will have gastric bypass surgery in 2003. 2. Cover that gaping hole with liberal amounts of sausage and oyster stuffing, remembering to stuff the drumsticks so they look like they have bones. 3. Throw the duck on top of the stuffing and really, try not to think about the airbrushing used on Carnie Wilson's newly thin body in that disappointing Playboy spread. 4. Layer cornbread stuffing on top of the duck. Did you know that the number of gastric bypass surgeries has increased four-fold in just six years? 5. Top the cornbread stuffing with chicken, 6. put the Stove Top on top of that and prep yourself for surgery. 7. Using steel pins, toothpicks, or a needle and thread, 8. attempt to sew or pin that bursting turkey back together. In the same way that Wisconsin EMT's had to use a piece of plywood and an open window to remove an ailing 752-pound man from his house, use a pair of plates to flip the turducken, 9. so the sewn side is down. While noting that you may have overstuffed the turducken, which is showing signs of trauma between the thighs, 10. tie up the

 
 

turducken using butcher's twine, so that it maintains some kind of shape during the cooking process. Place Frankenbird in a roasting pan with a cookie sheet underneath for support.

The Adventures of Frankenbird and Mr. Oven.
It is time to bring Frankenbird to life, using extreme heat, in a long process commonly known as "cooking." Through the magic of still photography, the secret relationshup between Frankenbird and Mr. Oven can be revealed. 1. Set Mr. Oven to 350 degrees. 2. In case you've never met, this is Mr. Oven. 3. See how happy he is to see you when he's open -- but it's just a nasty trick! 4. Mr. Oven covered

 
  Frankenbird's head with aluminum foil!
And Frankenbird jumped inside! 5. After an hour in Mr. Oven's roasty-toasty clutches, Frankenbird will still look like a white guy at the beach. 6. Baste the hell out of Frankenbird, so he doesn't get dry and burn up. 7. After two hours inside Mr.
 
 

Oven, the bottom half of the overstuffed Frankenbird will begin to melt away and stuffing will fall out. 8. It will still taste delicious, even after three hours. 9. Mean Mr. Oven is trying to torture the delicious Frankenbird by taking off his foil and browning him! 10. But no! Frankenbird has been saved. It's Dr. Meat Thermometer! He reads 185 degrees! Mr. Oven's reign of terror has ended! The morale: Only Dr. Meat Thermometer -- and not some arbitrary length of time, like five hours -- can free Frankenbird from Mr. Oven.

Taste The Meat Rainbow!
Over the last two days, you have waged a war against the ingredients and have emerged from your laboratory with a new animal, one bound

 
 

with twine, gagged with stuffing and encased in a tin coffin scorched by flames. With fork and knife in hand, slowly approach the brown, crisp turducken 1. and marvel at what you have brought into the world. Mock the gods as you cut into the turducken, 2. defying nature by carving directly across the middle, where that pesky skeletal structure used to be. Somewhere in the middle of the turducken, 3. you will find the perfect slice, where all three meats and all three stuffings rest side by side in perfect harmony. Pour on some

 
 

gravy, wipe the gore and vegetable matter off the front of your shirt and feel pride in your creation.

Congratulations, successful cook. With fork in hand you are ready to face the turducken's six layers of intimidation. Each slice, a credit to

 
 

the many different animals within. The taste, a tribute to 48 hours of solid work and more than $100 in groceries. You have weathered the twists and turns on the road to turducken with aplomb and are now have the answer to the meaty riddle.

What kind of food made a 105-pound woman eat seven-and-a-half plates of it in 12 minutes -- then say she'd eat more?

 
 

 

And you bite in, you want to eat so bad it hurts and then you know the gluttonous secret behind Sonya Thomas' smile. But with your mouth full, you don't want to say anything else about it, really.

You just want more.

 

Go Back to Part One...

 

Click here to see more lunacy from the lab.