… No, you got your chicken in my duck! [chewing pause] Hey, tastes great!
Perhaps like the two great tastes that taste great together in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, some sort of unwary barnyard collision resulted in the first turducken. Or perhaps not. Either way, with the Thanksgiving season having descended upon the United States, the aromas of the subtle culinary delight that is the turducken will doubtless once again fill many a hungry household. And what dish could be calorically more American than a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a deboned turkey before cooking?
Well, actually, this is one gut-busting tradition that can’t be attributed to American exceptionalism. “Nested birds” (and indeed other animals) have actually been served for centuries, and include such variations as England’s 18th-century Yorkshire Christmas pie (five birds layered or nested and baked inside flakey goodness). This is not to be confused with the tradition dating back at least to the 16th century of baking a pie in such a way as to keep living birds within it that could then fly out upon the pie’s being cut into (remember those four and twenty blackbirds who began to sing?).
The grandaddy of all such historical fare, however, would have to be the “rôti sans pareil” described in the 1807 Almanach des Gourmands by Napoleonic France’s own famed gastronomist, Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière. Giving a shout-out to similar dishes prepared by the ancient Romans, Grimod sets forth a recipe consisting of a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting, and a garden warbler, the last of which might have been stuffed with a single olive…
I’d like to see John Madden try carving one of those during an NFL broadcast! On second thought, no I wouldn’t.