turducken – rôti sans pareil (unequalled roast)

A blend of turkey, duck and chicken, the noun turducken designates a poultry dish consisting of a boned chicken inside a boned duck which is in turn placed inside a partially boned turkey, along with seasoned stuffing between the layers of meat and in the central cavity, the whole typically being cooked by roasting.

It is first recorded in the American magazine Newsweek of 29th November 1982:

The main attraction at dinner this week is called “turducken.” To make it, Prudhomme stuffs a boneless chicken with a reddish sausage stuffing; the stuffed chicken is then stuffed into a boneless duck with cornbread stuffing; finally, the chicken and duck are stuffed into a boneless turkey with greenish oyster stuffing. When sliced, you have three birds and a rainbow of stuffings.

This refers to the American chef Paul Prudhomme (1940-2015). Jim Landberg wrote an article about him, If someone’s in the kitchen, it’s probably Prudhomme, published in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) of 7th March 1984:

‘Turducken’ – One bird that satisfies aesthetics

While working at a Colorado resort in 1963, chef Paul Prudhomme said, he came up with his recipe for “turducken.”
Among other things, the resort’s kitchen crew was responsible for preparing a Sunday brunch. Prudhomme said, “we often served turkey, but as turkey gets carved up, it isn’t very pleasant to look at.”
So, for aesthetics’ sake, turducken came to pass.
Prudhomme stuffed a boneless chicken with a sausage stuffing. That was stuffed inside a boneless duck that contained cornbread stuffing.
Then all the above were stuffed into a boneless turkey that had already been stuffed with an oyster dressing.
After a very long cooking period (nine to 12 hours at 175 degrees), Prudhomme said, you end up with something that looks nice on a banquet table as it’s being carved. The birds and different colored stuffings are pleasant to behold, he said.
Prudhomme, about two years ago, ran a deli above his New Orleans restaurant. “We sold a lot of turducken out of there,” he recalled.
“But they got to be too much. We didn’t want to spend so much time on just making turducken. So I raised the price—a number of times. Still, we had regular customers, you know, who I hated to turn down.
“It was unbelievable. At one point I would tell people phoning in orders, ‘the turducken’s too high. You don’t want it.’ They’d ask the price. I’d tell them, oh, $125.
“‘We want three,’ they’d reply.”
Before he finally quit selling turducken, Prudhomme said, he was getting “around $250 apiece, as I recall.”

But, as early as 1807, in L’Almanach des Gourmands (Paris), Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière (1758-1837) had published a recipe for the rôti sans pareil (= the unequalled roast), a dish consisting of no less than seventeen fowls stuffed into one another (he explained in a preamble that the method itself goes back to the Romans); the formulation of this recipe is often ‘saucy’:

Take a fine olive stuffed with capers and anchovies, marinated in virgin olive oil, and put it in the body of a warbler, from which the head and the legs will have been cut off.
Put this warbler, thus trussed, in an ortolan, fat and plump.
Put this ortolan, thus chosen, in the body of a lark, from which, besides the amputation of the legs and the head, the main bones will have been removed, and that will have been covered with a bard of very thin bacon.
Put the lark thus stuffed and dressed in the body of a thrush, that you will have dressed and trussed likewise.
Put the thrush in the body of a very fat, very juicy quail, and which be from vineyard, in preference to a domestic quail.
Put this quail, non-barded but wrapped in a vine leaf, which will serve as its title of nobility and certificate of origin, in the body of a fine lapwing.
Put the lapwing, well trussed and dressed in a thin frock-coat of bacon, in the body of a fine golden plover.
Put the said plover, well barded, in the body of a fine partridge, red if you can.
Put this partridge in the body of a young woodcock, tender as Miss Volnais, succulent, and well mortified [= made tender by hanging, beating, etc.].
Put this woodcock, after enveloping it with thinly cut crusts, in the body of a teal.
Put the teal, carefully barded and well dressed, in the body of a young guinea fowl.
Put the guinea fowl, well barded too, in the body of a duck, young, and chosen among the wild ones, in preference to the domestic ducks.
Put the duck in the body of a young fattened chicken, white as Mrs Belmont, plump as Miss De Vienne, fat as Miss L. Contat, but medium-sized.
Put this chicken in the body of a fine pheasant, young, well chosen, but above all properly mortified, for the gourmands only like them this way.
Put this pheasant in the body of a young wild goose, fat, and well tenderised.
Put this young and fine goose in the body of a very fine hen turkey, white and fat as Miss Arsène.
Finally, enclose your hen turkey in the body of a fine bustard, and if it does not fit in it exactly, fill up the gaps with good chestnuts from Le Luc, sausage meat, or some good elaborate forcemeat.
Your roast, thus prepared, put it in a pot of a suitable capacity, with onions stuck with cloves, carrots, small dice of ham, celery, bouquet garni, coarse-ground pepper, many bards of well-seasoned bacon, pepper, salt, fine spices, coriander, and one or two cloves of garlic.
Seal this pot hermetically by luting it with paste, or any other appropriate sealant. Then put it for twenty-four hours on a low heat, and placed in such a way that the heat penetrates it equally and little by little. We think that a moderately heated oven, and kept at the same degree, would be even more suitable than the hearth.
When serving, unseal, put your roast on a warm dish, after removing the fat from it if necessary, and put onto table. It is easy to imagine that the juices of so many different fowls, mingled by this gentle cooking, and their diverse principles identified one with each other, as a result of this intimate bringing together, give to this unequalled roast a marvellous taste: you have in it the quintessence of the plains, of the forests, of the marshes, and of the best farmyard.
Besides, the skilful cook’s ingenuity varies this roast according to the seasons, the places, and the expenditure that one wants to make. It is only a matter of following the principles set forth in this recipe, that is to say, of enclosing all those animals one into another, starting with the smallest, and going up thus by degrees from the warbler to the bustard.

     original text:
Prenez une belle olive farcie aux câpres et aux anchois, marinée à l’huile vierge, et la mettez dans le corps d’un bec figue, auquel on aura coupé la tête et les pattes ;
Mettez ce bec-figue, ainsi troussé, dans un ortolan, gras et bien en chair ;
Mettez cet ortolan, ainsi choisi, dans le corps d’une mauviette, à laquelle, outre l’amputation des pattes et de la tête, l’on aura retranché les os principaux, et que l’on aura entourée d’une barde de lard très-mince ;
Mettez la mauviette ainsi farcie et parée dans le corps d’une grive, que vous aurez parée et troussée de même ;
Mettez la grive dans le corps d’une caille bien grasse, bien juteuse, et qui soit de vigne, de préférence à une caille domestique ;
Mettez cette caille non bardée, mais enveloppée d’une feuille de vigne, qui lui servira de titre de noblesse et de certificat d’origine, dans le corps d’un bon vanneau ;
Mettez le vanneau, bien troussé et revêtu d’une mince redingotte de lard, dans le corps d’un beau pluvier doré ;
Mettez ledit pluvier, bien bardé, dans le corps d’un beau perdreau, rouge si vous pouvez ;
Mettez ce perdreau dans le corps d’une jeune bécasse, tendre comme Mlle Volnais, succulente, et bien mortifiée ;
Mettez cette bécasse, après l’avoir entourée de croûtes de pain coupées bien minces, dans le corps d’une sarcelle ;
Mettez la sarcelle, bardée avec soin et bien parée, dans le corps d’un pintadeau ;
Mettez le pintadeau, bien bardé aussi, dans le corps d’un canard, jeune, et choisi parmi les sauvages, de préférence aux canards domestiques ;
Mettez le canard dans le corps d’une jeune poularde, blanche comme Mme Belmont, bien en chair comme Mlle De Vienne, grasse comme Mlle L. Contat, mais de moyenne grosseur ;
Mettez cette poularde dans le corps d’un beau faisan, jeune, bien choisi, mais surtout convenablement mortifié, car les Gourmands ne les aiment qu’ainsi ;
Mettez ce faisan dans le corps d’une jeune oie sauvage, grasse, et bien attendrie ;
Mettez cette jeune et belle oie dans le corps d’une très-belle poule d’Inde, blanche et grasse comme Mlle Arsène.
Enfin, renfermez votre poule d’Inde dans le corps d’une belle outarde, et si elle ne le remplit pas exactement, bouchez les vides avec de bons marrons du Luc, de la chair à saucisses, ou une bonne farce savante.
Votre Rôti, ainsi disposé, mettez-le dans un pot d’une capacité convenable, avec oignons piqués de clous, carottes, petits dés de jambon, céleri, bouquet garni, mignonnette, force bardes de lard bien assaisonné, poivre, sel, épices fines, coriandre, et une ou deux gousses d’ail.
Scellez ce pot hermétiquement en le lutant avec de la pâte, ou tout autre lut approprié. Mettez-le ensuite pendant vingt-quatre heures sur un feu doux, et disposé de manière que la chaleur le pénètre également et peu à peu. Nous pensons qu’un four chauffé modérément, et entretenu au même degré, lui conviendrait mieux encore que l’âtre.
Au moment de servir, délutez, dressez votre Rôti sur un plat chaud, après l’avoir dégraissé s’il en est besoin, et mettez sur table. Il est facile d’imaginer que les sucs de tant de différens volatiles, mêlés par cette douce cuisson, et leurs principes divers identifiés les uns aux autres, par suite de cet intime rapprochement, donnent à ce Rôti sans pareil un goût merveilleux : vous avez en lui la quintessence des plaines, des forêts, des marais, et de la meilleure basse-cour.
Au reste, l’industrie d’un cuisinier habile varie ce Rôti selon les saisons, les lieux, et la dépense que l’on veut faire. Il s’agit seulement de suivre les principes énoncés dans cette recette, c’est-à-dire, de renfermer tous ces animaux les uns dans les autres, en commençant par le plus petit, et s’élevant ainsi par degrés du bec-figue jusqu’à l’outarde.

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