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Turkey Alternatives

By Laurie Strock
Published July 28, 2006

Instead of being a tailor, as with turducken, you’ve got to be a sculptor to make your own tofu turkey.

Admit it, you're tired of that same old Thanksgiving turkey recipe, prepared the same way year after year. Served with all the fixin’s on the big night itself and then recycled for a week in sandwiches, tetrazini, turkey salad, and finally, turkey soup. While a lot of folks look forward to this annual gorge-a-thon, more and more people are turning to an alternative main course to add variety to their Thanksgiving feast. Two of the most popular of these are the vegan-approved Tofurky and its arch-enemy, the Atkins-friendly Turducken. To-who? Tur-what?




It’s said that during their village feasts the ancient Romans stuffed an entire cow with a sheep, then a pig, then a goose, then a chicken, and then roasted the whole thing over a spit for a few days (imagine a culinary version of Russian matryoshka nesting dolls). Certainly this took a very long time to cook, as it’s very dense, and surely would have had to cook it very slowly, over low heat, to have the innermost meat not raw, and the outermost not burnt. There’s also evidence that Middle Eastern feasts included stuffed sheep inside of camels, and lamb inside of sheep, etc., etc. If you can imagine eating either one of these, without worrying about too many flavors all colliding in your mouth at once (or the amount of Pepto-Bismol you’d need after dinner), enter the turducken.

Based on a traditional Cajun recipe, the turducken is a boned turkey, stuffed with a boned duck, which is stuffed with a chicken, which is then stuffed with herbs and spices. It may be a couple of thousand years late for the Romans, but right on time for us carb-counting, high protein-craving Americans. In the last decade or so, the Turducken—and its deep-fried (!) variant—has been steadily gaining popularity outside of its original Louisiana habitat thanks to word of mouth and a dedicated cadre of mail order and online specialty houses.

But be warned: a turducken takes a full 12 hours to cook, and the chef should time this wisely. There’s a lot involved in the preparation, too and casual home cooks may want to mull over whether they want to lavish so much time on it, even for something that supposedly tastes a little like heaven. You may also opt to purchase one pre-prepared (although they don’t come cheap: Hickory Farms charges $109.95, which doesn’t include shipping). It’s probably best to order from a specialty provider that knows what it’s doing rather than a big chain, that may not.