turducken: three birds are better than one


turducken with cranberry & ginger sauce 

Casually drop the word Turducken into conversation and I can guarantee that the average person will respond by looking at you in a quizzical manner and saying ‘a tur-what?’ I remember asking the exact same question on my first encounter with the tri-bird concept. It was Autumn in Northern California and I was working for a rather large Sonoma county winery. One lunchtime we were sitting around chatting and somehow the conversation turned to all things turkey. At first I was certain that my colleagues were having a lend of me. Surely it couldn’t be true. Stuffing a chicken inside a duck and then the duck inside a turkey? Nooo way. Many more minutes of lunchtime banter later and the revelation that you need to debone the birds first and I began to believe in the possibility. But to be honest, really, the whole thing didn’t exactly ingnite my imagination and I went back to work that afternoon letting the whole Turducken thing fall to the back of my mind as I focused on barrels and wine. Years later, back in Sydney, I surprisingly found myself once again talking turkey with co-workers. This time it was a dinner at my place and somehow we had strayed on to the fact that our employer was very generous in providing everyone with a frozen turkey at Christmas and what tasty turkeys they were. Charlie happened to mention that he still had his turkey in the freezer and one thing led to another and with the suggestion of the holy trinity of poultry, a Turducken dream began to take shape.

At first a Christmas in July event was bandied around as being perfect for Turducken, but finding a mutually acceptable date for the core Turducken crew prooved to be a little tricky. Finally we settled on the second Sunday in August and with the move to my fabulous new apartment combined with a dining table ,things started coming together.

The last Tuesday before Turducken Day, I gave Charlie a call to remove the precious bird from the freezer and the journey to Turducken began in earnest. Turducken Day Eve I found myself up at the crack of dawn for a psyche up run to Bondi and back. Next came the hunting and gathering. Two little birds were purchased along with the other requirements and I headed home to rendez-vous with Charlie who rocked up in his cycling gear complete with a nicely defrosted turkey in his back pack.

With the three birds together at last, I got down to the business end of Turducken. With the help of a super sharp paring knife on loan from my good friend Kath, I spent the next three hours trying not to think of the scary dude from silence of the lambs (it takes the lotion…eeweh) as I got down to the grisly task of removing the bones from each of our once feathered friends. Over three hours, a few hasty photos and only one cut finger later the Turducken was complete. After showing it off to some slightly sceptical friends, I wrapped my new creation firmly in cling wrap and tucked it in to the fridge for the evening.

Turducken Day dawned bright and sunny. One of those perfect Sydney winter days that makes you question why anyone would possibly want to live in any other city. With the City to Surf underway, it was time for Turducken roasting. Seven and a half hours later the star of the show emerged from the oven just as the guests were arriving. There’s nothing like the promise of a serious meat feast to set the tone for a party and it was fun to thrill in the buzz of anticipation as we sipped Champagne and nibbled smoked salmon (thanks olivia!) on the balcony.

There’s something distinctly surreal about carving a Turducken. It looks like a normal turkey but the whole boneless thing makes it all too easy. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this feast in terms of flavour. Sure I had tried to jazz the stuffings up with a bit of a Moroccan spiced vibe but it just felt a little too gimicky to actually taste any good. But happily as is often the case, I was wrong and the flavours were actually quite lovely. So much so that I’m now considering a repeat performance for my family at Christmas or possibly fake Christmas this year. Now we just need to keep it a secret so I can surprise them….all good things….

the turducken!
turducken with couscous stuffing and mint and rice stuffing
cranberry & ginger sauce
couscous salad
shaved fennel & radish salad with pomegranate molasses dressing
baked lemon cheesecake with spiced cumquats

serves more than 10
Inspired by Charlie and his long term dream.

For step by step photos of my turducken creation click HERE. For instructions on how to debone your birds and the original recipe from the master click HERE. Feel free to make good use of your bones by making a stock which you can use for the stuffings and sauces and even the couscous salad but if you’re not that hard core commercial chicken stock will do the job.

This is a time consuming endeavour. I strongly recommend preparing your turducken the day before then removing from the fridge a few hours before you’re ready to cook to allow the beast to come to room temperature. It’s going to take about 8 hours to cook and an hour to rest so plan for a day at home, preferable sitting on the balcony with a good mate sharing a bottle of Riesling in the sun while you pop inside every now and then for a bit of basting.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer, I heartily recommend you beg borrow or steal one. Cooking a Turducken is a big enough undertaking without having to worry about whether the beast is cooked or not.

4kg turkey, deboned with wings and drumsticks attached
1.7kg duck, deboned
1kg chicken, deboned
1 bunch thyme
100g butter, melted
1 blood orange
1C (250mL) chicken stock or turducken stock
for the couscous stuffing:
3T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2C (500mL) chicken stock or turducken stock
1T ground cinnamon
1t ground coriander
1t ground cumin
1/2t ground ginger
4 cardamom pods
zest 1 lemon
1.5C (300g couscous)
for the rice fig & mint stuffing:
2t olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
100g (1/2C) long grain rice
60g dried figs, chopped
1t baharat or all spice
3 sprigs mint, leaves picked
juice 1 lemon

For the couscous stuffing, heat oil in a medium saucepan and cook onion over a low heat until softened. Add stock and bring to the boil then remove from the heat. Stir through couscous and remaining stuffing ingredients. Cover and allow to stand for 10mins. Fluff with a fork then spread on a tray and refrigerate until chilled.

For the rice stuffing cook onion in oil until soft. Stir through garlic and rice and toast for a couple of minutes. Add stock and simmer for 10mins, covered. Add remaining ingredients except mint and stir then simmer covered for another 5 mins or until stock is absorbed and rice is tender. Spread on a large plate and refrigerate until cold.

Take your deboned birds out of the fridge and place each on a sheet of baking paper skin side down, opened up like a book. Place 1/3 of the couscous stuffing in a layer over the chicken and use the remaining to layer over the turkey being sure to stuff extra into the leg holes and wings so that it is more likely to resemble a normal bird. Spread rice stuffing over the duck.

Take the chicken and bring the sides together and secure with a large skewer or two. Carefully place the chicken in the center of your duck then bring the sides of the duck up to encompass the chook. Use skewers to fasten the duck making sure to remove the chicken skewers as you go. Repeat with the stuffed duck and turkey removing the duck skewers when possible.

Place a large baking dish over the turkey then gently invert so that the turkey is sitting snugly inside the dish breast sideup. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until needed.

On turducken day, remove the turducken from the fridge and stand for 2-3 hours. Preheat oven to 200C. Tuck thyme in around the edges of your bird. Pour melted butter over the breast. Halve orange and squeeze the juice from one half over and use the other half to block the gap between the legs. Pour over stock and season well. Cover tightly with foil and place in preheated oven on the lowest shelf. Reduce heat to 150C and bake for approx 8 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 165F (sorry my thermometer is old school). During the baking remove turducken from the oven and baste every hour or so remembering to cover tightly in between. Approx 2 hours before your bird is ready remove foil and allow the skin to brown to your liking, recovering with foil if it starts to get too dark.

When the magic temperature is reached remove from the oven and cover with foil. Allow to stand in a warm place for an hour. When ready to serve carve and place in the middle of the table for your guests to admire and help themselves.

cranberry & ginger sauce
makes heaps

Inspired by Molly’s Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries over at my favourite food blog, orangette.

I’ve played around with Molly’s idea to make up for the fact that I have no idea where to get fresh cranberries in Oz and have swapped in fresh and dried ginger for the crystallized version so you get more of that fresh punchiness that only fresh ginger can provide.

200g fresh ginger, peeled & grated
juice & zest 1 orange
600g apricot jam
500g craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
600mL chicken stock
1/2C white wine vinegar
2t dried ginger, ground

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 30mins stirring periodically or until cranberries are all swollen. Season well. You can serve as is in a chunky chutney form or add your turducken cooking juices to thin down to a more saucey consistency.


couscous salad
serves 10 as a side dish


This salad is an old favourite.And while the starring ingredients vary depending on my mood and availability, the basics of good quality stock and couscous with some lemon and all spice to brighten things up make it a hit. You could make with just water if you were after a vego salad (and yes there was a vegetarian at the turducken dinner…hello Nihara you brave soul) but I really think couscous needs the extra dimension that stock adds.

500mL chicken or turducken stock
500g couscous
1/4C lemon pressed olive oil
1 red capsicum (pepper) finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 zucchini (courgette), finely chopped
1t allspice
juice & zest 1 lemon
2T butter
1 bunch continental parsley, chopped
1 bunch coriander, chopped

Bring couscous to the boil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and stir through remaining ingredients except the herbs. Cover and allow to stand for at least 20mins or as long as you’ve got.

To serve season well, toss through herbs and fluff with a fork (fluffing really is the key to good couscous).

shaved fennel & radish salad with pomegranate molasses dressing
serves 10 as a side dish

The pomegranate molasses adds a lovely sweet exoticness to this salad but feel free to leave it out if you don’t have any on hand. I was catering for someone with nut allergies so had to leave them out but a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds or pistachios would make a lovely addition. Oh and I should fess up the photo about was taken pre-dressing.

1 bunch mint, leaves picked
2 medium bulbs fennel, approx 500g each
1 bunch radishes
2 jerusalem artichokes
juice 1 lemon
2T pomegranate molasses, optional
6T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2t baharat

Trim fennel and quarter lengthwise. Shave with a mandoline or v slicer or a sharp knife and a steady hand. Wash & trim radishes and shave into rounds. Repeat with the Jerusalem artichoke. Combine dressing ingredients, season and allow to stand for 10mins. Combine shaved veg and mint and toss through dressing, remembering to discard the garlic first. Serve asap.




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  • Oh.My.GOD. I now know someone (at least cyber-kinow) who actually has made a turducken. You are a brave, brave soul.
    No way would I ever undertake that, but I loved reading about it.

    Now the salad: that I will make. It looks terrific.

  • kudos for taking on such an enormous task…i was beginning to think the turducken was almost a mythological beast! great menu as always, you continue to astound.

  • Heh! And Oh. My. God. That is just awesome!

    And I would have been one of those tur-du-what-a?! if it wasn’t for Jeffrey Steingarten – he makes it too, but yours is much better – it’s got pictures!:)

  • Damn! That’s one hell of an accomplishment. I’m impressed to hear you liked it enough to want to do it again. In the back of my mind I always worried this dish was more gimmick than anything, but you’ve convinced me otherwise. I hope you haven’t explained this elsewhere, but what is baharat?

  • Hey Clancy
    If you had royal permission you could have stuck your turkey inside a swan ! I do like a terrine, by any name.

  • Heh, glad to see I’m not the only Aussie who’s made a Turducken. We’ve made a yearly event out of it, invented a holiday and all.

    And it is hellof time consuming.

  • There is a similar Bedouin meal that has a camel stuffed with a sheep stuffed with a small goat (which some lark has dubbed a CamelShOat), and another recipe for a similar thing that is as follows:

    “Stuffed Camel”

    From the Al Hasa cookbook -a more than 400 page compilation of recipes compiled by the women’s groups, and published in 1976.

    This recipe was given by Jo Waters of Abqaiq:

    1 medium camel
    4 lambs
    20 chickens (roasted)
    150 eggs (boiled)
    40 kilos tomatoes
    Salt and seasonings

    Stuff eggs into tomatoes, stuff tomatoes into chickens, stuff chickens into lambs, stuff lambs into camel. Roast until tender

  • Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!|

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