February 28, 2011

Taking down big bird

Pin It

Being a self-confessed "foodie" - or maybe that's too presumptuous of me - I must admit that I'd never heard of the term "turducken" until earlier this year.  I thought it was some foreign, exotic dish at first, until it was explained to be that this was the combination of turkey, duck and chicken.  I was mortified as the image of three birds, one stuffed into another, surfaced in my mind.  Surely this is something created by the same dumb Americans that dreamed up shows like "Man vs. Food", who enjoy watching others - or taking part in - gorging themselves on ridiculous amounts of food.

A quick search on the internet revealed some interesting results.  While this monstrosity entered mainstream American culture in recent years thanks to the antics of John Madden, it had been regularly served by a few places in the American South as early as two decades ago.  Surprisingly, the dish isn't even American in origin... Mais non!  The earliest recipe seems to have been preserved in the fifth edition of the Almanach des Gourmands by one Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, published in 1807.  Within the chapter titled «d'Un Rôti Sans Pareil» he describes the process of stuffing an outarde (bustard) with a succession of 16 smaller birds, down to a becfigue (garden warbler?) stuffed with an olive.

This seems like a pretty crazy idea, but apparently the concept of multi-bird roasts has wide appeal, and even Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the four-eyed host of the popular TV show River Cottage, has apparently attempted a 10-bird roast some years back. 

When my friend Cha Xiu Bao sent out an invite to try to "take down" a turducken at Blue Smoke Bar-B-Que, I didn't hesitate to raise my hand.  I did so more out of curiosity than anything else.  I just had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

I brought a bottle of 2006 Seña, which turned out to be the only bottle for the evening and not quite enough to go around the table.  The nose had smoky, forest notes plus a few others I didn't quite place.  But I didn't have much of a chance to appreciate it...

We started with a couple of small dishes to whet our appetite before the main event came on.

Basket of bacon - these were OK. The burnt edges had that nice, smoky flavor to it. 

Pork belly nuggets - these were fried after having been roasted.  Is there anything better than pork belly?  I think not.  I wanted a lot more of this, but needed to save room for what was coming later.

Spicy smoked house made andouille sausage - I was pretty excited when I heard that we were having andouille, but was completely disappointed when the dish showed up.  I had totally forgotten that in Cajun cuisine, andouille is just a spicy pork sausage and nothing like the French version of andouille...  In the end this was just another smoky, spicy sausage, which was OK.

Turducken - this was what we came for, and to be honest... it was a lot smaller than we expected, which was not necessarily a bad thing...  The birdie had been pre-roasted and left under a heat lamp to be kept warm.  We all gathered around the counter as the bird was cut open, taking pictures and ooohing and aaahing...

This was a fairly small turkey, but even so it was a lot bigger than the duck inside, so the space between the birds - as well as the cavity inside the chicken - was filled with jambalaya.

To be honest, the dish was very underwhelming.  While the skin and the outermost bits of turkey were nicely smoked, turkey meat was dry and tough as expected.  I couldn't take it without drenching it with enough gravy.  Duck meat was a little more flavorful, while the best part was probably the jambalaya with the spicy andouille

Chili cheese fries - not bad at all.

Jalapeño peppers - these were stuffed with cream cheese and bacon.  A little spicy, but pretty delish.

USDA baby back ribs - we ordered a slab and each of us got to taste one rib.  Not bad at all.

Mac & cheese - pretty bland.  I'd rather make the box of Kraft myself with that funky orange cheese powder...

Well, we did it.  All of us have checked "turducken" off of our list of things to try.  Would any of us do it again?  I doubt it... but it was just something that had to be done once.

Mrs. Dyson was still hungry and wanted dessert, so we went off to Yuen Kee Dessert (源記甜品專家), where I had a quick bowl of sweet walnut cream (香滑核桃露).  This old-fashioned dessert specialist had been using a stone grinder for over half a century, and I could feel the grainy texture of the walnut in my bowl.  A little on the sweet side but not a problem for me.  A good way to end the evening.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map