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Turducken

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A turducken is a dish consisting of a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck which is stuffed with a de-boned chicken. The name is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken. The cavity of the chicken and the gaps between the birds are sometimes filled with sausage meat, although some versions - Paul Prudhomme’s in particular - have a different stuffing for each bird. The tradition of stuffing deboned birds inside each other comes from Europe in the Middle Ages, with one recipe calling for the last bird, a squab, to be “stuffed with one plump oyster.” But the origins of its popularity in Louisiana are less documented. Some people credit chef Paul Prudhomme with its creation, while others point to Hebert's Specialty Meats, in Maurice, Louisiana, as the origin of the “bird.” According to legend, in 1985, a local farmer brought in a turkey and duck he had just killed to Herbert’s and asked for each bird to be deboned and for the duck to be stuffed in the turkey. Then, he ordered a deboned chicken, for which Hebert’s was already famous, and asked for it to be stuffed inside the duck. The company now prepares around 5,000 turduckens per week around Thanksgiving time. During Christmas week of 2006, Hebert's deboned and stuffed 7,500 chickens. Regarding Prudhomme’s claim to the first bird, Herbert’s owner Sammy Hebert says “He’s trying to claim he’s the first one to make [a turducken], but he doesn’t have any proof, just like we don’t have any proof we made it first. He gives us a lot of credit, though. I think he knows who was the first one.”

Some people now serve the turducken in place of the traditional roasted turkey at Thanksgiving, though it has a strong rival in its Cajun sister, the fried turkey. Their popularity has spread from Louisiana to the rest of the country, and Paul Prudhomme notes, “It’s going crazy around the country. It’s just mind-boggling; it just doesn’t make sense.” Turduckens can be prepared at home by anybody with lots of time, patience and the skill to remove the bones. Interested home cooks should heed the advice of food writer, Sara Roahen: “To make a turducken at the last minute, you must begin three days in advance.” She also notes that it is helpful if you are married to a medical student, as “suturing skills and a hand trained to keep steady under pressure are useful when assembling a turducken.”

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