Turducken Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had  a lovely thanksgiving. Just recently in a conversation with a friend I was saying how much I like thanksgiving because it’s one of the more calm holidays.  It’s not that I don’t have thrill seeker genes (I do), but just that for every New Years Eve or Halloween I think it’s nice that there’s a holiday that’s basically dedicated to good company, good food, and taking naps. I dare you to tell me any other party where nearly every person can fall asleep and the party is still a “success.”

This year I had two Thanksgivings. One with my partner’s family here in New York, and a second with some new-ish but very dear friends.  For T2-east, as i’m going to call it (not to be confused with a standing Thanksgiving 2 tradition in California), we actually carried out one of my food bucketlist projects. We made a Turducken.

In case any body doesn’t know what that is, a turducken is a Chicken, stuffed inside a Duck, stuffed inside a Turkey. and technically we made a turducken-hen because at the center of the chicken we stuffed a Cornish game hen.

Cornish Game Hen, Deboning

Alex goes after the Cornish Game Hen.

The entire process was long. It took 2-3 hours to prepare and 4-5 hours to cook. The reason the prep takes such a long time is that each bird has to be de-boned. Starting at the spine on each fowl, you can make an incision and then slowly, painstakingly peal away the meat from the carcass. When you’ve done this for all 3 (or 4) birds you basically have each bird flayed out, as if you unzipped them down the middle, took the “meat-coat” off the skeleton, and laid it down flat.

A perfectly de-boned duck, by Megan.

Me, having trouble with the turkey.

Then, once you have all 3 sheets of meat, you spice and salt the inside of the turkey “coat” before laying the flat duck on top. Then you season the inside of the duck, and lay the flat chicken on top.  Once you have all your layers you scoop the sides of the turkey back together and twine the meat, what is now essentially a roast,  shut. to use the coat metaphor once more, you zip the turkey closed with the other birds inside like russian dolls.  I have no pictures of this part of the process because it took all 6 hands in the kitchen to hold the slippery meat in place and tie the strings. From this point, you cook it as you would any turkey.  It goes into the oven for about 4 hours. You baste, you wait, you nibble other things.

As it was cooking Alex explained to me why the Turducken is great: it’s the duck.  Ducks are little fatties- and Turkey and Chicken breast can be dry. When you cook a turducken the duck meat is pressed between the turkey breast and the chicken breast. As the three birds cook the duck fat keeps everybody moist, so all the white meat on the turkey and chicken comes out succulent and moist (basically it makes it more like dark meat, which is generally more awesome).

The last thing that makes a turducken fun is that when it finally does come out of the oven you can litterally slice right down the center of it as if it was bread.  There no bones left (save the Turkey’s wings and drumsticks which you leave on) so if you slice right down the center you get an awesome cross-section that shows each of the birds and their different colored meats. You will Instagram with pride.

I had a great time putting it all together, but if I ever do it again I will look into buying previously de-boned birds, or I will pay a butcher to de-bone them in 5 minutes and save me and my guests the 1.5 hours of knife work. Nevertheless, I’m happy that we did it ourselves this time because it was bad-ass, and because it seriously works up your appetite.  🙂

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Yes We Can: A Hurricane Relief Story

I consider myself to be pretty adventurous, but sometimes even we adventurous folk fall into the awful trap of thinking you like your routine a lot more than you do.   Don’t get me wrong, routines are great. I like them for reasons of health, productivity, and comfort.  To me, workouts and healthy eating are a matter of waking up at the right time each morning and buying groceries with enough regularity that you don’t reach those scurvy-inducing busy weeks where floating pepper jack cheese into a bowl of ramen passes for dinner. I also believe that working toward your goals a little bit each day moves mountains, but man:  I’ve been caught in a rut where my Saturdays and Sundays are dedicated to half-assed work on a few yet-outstanding  projects… and I’ve forgotten to make time to, you know, live.

I think this is why I was so excited when a friend  invited me to volunteer for the hurricane relief effort with her.  By this point I had already spent a lot of breath explaining to out-of-towners that I was fine, Yes New York got crushed, Yeah I was in a lucky place, Yes I had internet, etc…. but that’s really just a lot of talk for a non-experience.  And I always feel like the biggest hurdles to any sort volunteering are knowing how to start and going alone. So thank you, Teresa, for tackling the hard part.

We met up in Williamsburg and took the G train out to Red Hook, the lower part of Brooklyn that got storm-pounded and very badly flooded. From the rally point we were asked to join a clean-up crew. We said yes, but stood stiffly while we waited for the sentence details to be given to us. Eventually we were scooped up by a group leader and were off to our task.

Teresa and I with Masks!

Masks multiplied the fun by two and only slightly stifled our discussion of New York Magazine vs. The New Yorker.

Along with a team of 3 others we were cleaning out a warehouse down near the water.  The warehouse had been flooded with up to 6 feet of water during the hurricane.  If we had been there for it we would have been drowning, Teresa observed. Inside we encountered an strange landscape of toppled boxes that had melted down into soppy gook.  The contents of the boxes, thousands of soda cans, were swimming in the sea-water and dirt muck. Let’s assume there were a lot of bacteria.

Our task was to break off into mini teams, separate cans from garbage, bathe the cans in a wheelbarrow of bleach and then send them through a series of tub water baths until the the can was clean and could be open without fear of infecting the drinker.  At the end of the line a team dried and stacked cans on a new pallet to be donated or sold on the cheap.

It ended up being a really fun adventure.  We made small chat with the volunteers around us, and at one point thought Mayor Bloomberg was outside. Mis-translating the Spanish of some Puerto Rican women sent Teresa scampering after the photo op that wasn’t there.

The ONLY thing that I wish had been different about this entire day is that we had been salvaging something other than soda. Wouldn’t it be a much better story if it was cans of FOOD that were being used to feed other hurricane victims in the city? I like that story. I like it so much better that I have half lied twice to certain acquaintances and suggested that there was food mixed in with the rubble and pop.