It’s been several years since we had Thanksgiving dinner at 2gourmaniacs. And before I get into our Thanksgiving dinner, let me go on record as saying that I’m not a big fan of oven-roasted turkey. To paraphrase Grant Achatz, you wouldn’t stick a whole steer or cow in the oven and expect it to come out with every part of the animal perfectly cooked. Well, the same holds true of a whole turkey.
Twenty-five years or so ago, I started to solve this problem by oven roasting a stuffed, deboned turkey. Fifteen years ago, I started making turduckens for Thanksgiving; a stuffed, deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a deboned turkey which was slow roasted at 190 degrees ℉ for 14 hours. Better, but not perfect.
This year I did something completely different. I deconstructed the turducken concept, as follows: I purveyed two free range turkeys, ducks, and chickens. Then I deboned all six birds. I separated the deboned birds into breast meat, deboned thigh meat, legs, and wings. I brined everything except the thigh meat for 24 hours. After brining, I rinsed all the meat and dried it off with paper towels. I removed all the skin from the turkey and chicken parts, but I left the duck fat and skin on both the breasts and the thighs.
Now for the fun part: I glued the three different birds into one. To do that I sliced the turkey breasts into ¾ inch slabs, like a turkey scaloppini. Then using the chicken breast as the bottom layer, I sprinkled “meat glue” on it (see *note), then a layer of turkey, another sprinkle of meat glue, then another layer of turkey, then meat glue, and finally a duck breast on top fat side up. After I assembled all four turduckens, I wrapped each one tightly in plastic wrap, placed them in a pan that held them compactly next to each other, added a tray on top that was weighted with a couple of bricks, and refrigerated them overnight.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I vacuum-sealed each turducken composite in a plastic vacuum bag and sous vide all four of them at 154 degree ℉ for three hours. After the turducken pieces were cooked, I chilled them in an iced water bath and stored in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving.
About a half hour before we were ready to convene at the table, I took the turduckens from the refrigerator and got them out of the vacuumed sealed bags. I placed them on a cutting board and cut them into 3-4 inch cubes. Meanwhile, I heated up a large cast iron skillet. I warmed each turducken “cube” in the pan, flipping them over for about three minutes, then temporarily set them aside while I poured several tablespoons of canola oil to film the pan. Finally, I placed the turducken cubes back in the skillet, duck skin side down, and seared them until the skin was golden brown and slightly crispy, about a minute or so.
I had warned everyone who came over for Thanksgiving this year that there was going to be turkey, just not the traditional roasted turkey. Needless to say, there was a great deal of interest in the presentation of my deconstructed turducken, but the real reward for me was how everyone loved my Thanksgiving turkey.
*Note: Transglutaminase, or “meat glue” is the name of two products made by Ajinomoto under the name of Activa. It is an enzyme produced from seaweed. It binds proteins together. It is tasteless and a natural ingredient. It is commercially used in many food products. It is available directly from Ajinomoto North America, and 100 gram samples are readily available.