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If you think the turducken is a heretical tinkering with nature’s order, consider the Bedouin wedding feast of boiled eggs stuffed into fish stuffed into chickens stuffed into a sheep stuffed into a camel. Now that’s a rock-n-roll meat party. When they slice that baby open, you might not wanna look.
Indeed, the popular turducken, a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey (separated by layers of stuffing and sausage) is merely the latest in a long evolution of carnal centerpieces at fancy gatherings. The famous banquet scene in Fellini’s Satyricon, in which a whole swine is dramatically sliced open at the nave so a welter of “thrushes, fatted hens, bird gizzards, sausage ropes, tender plucked doves, snails, livers, ham, and offal” can tumble out for the oohing throng, is part and parcel of the same craft – that of the clever butcher who marries unlike meats in strange, arresting creations. (Oh, relax, “Happy Hot Dog Man”, we haven’t forgotten you.)
Who is making Turduckens locally? Who sold 130 of these veritable Russian tea dolls of poultry for Thanksgiving, and will sell that many more for Christmas? Who has mastered the two-person, funnel-shaped “jet netter,” used to wrap the turkey in a grid of taut netting so the meat-blivet does not explode in the oven?
That would be South County institution Kenrick’s Meats and Catering. We have to give mad meat props to the dudes at Kenrick’s – it’s no surprise that they turn out Turduckens in volume. After all, experimentation in butchery is their hallmark. These are the people who sell burger-style patties made of chopped bacon and pork, “chicken cordon bleu balls,” brat-seasoned hot dogs, square burgers, Ozark steak grillers (bites of cheese wrapped in steak meat wrapped in bacon) in a rainbow of flavors, and dozens of other mad-scientist takes on traditional meat-market fare.
We caught up with Kenrick’s Head Meat Cutter Mike Byassee (at left), and observed with rapt fascination as he prepared one of the several variations of turducken that the shop offers. He prepped a semi-boneless turducken (the turkey wings and drumsticks still had bones, as well they should) for a dark-meat experience, though Kenrick’s will do an all-white-meat, boneless Turducken, too.
Byassee explained that he could stuff a turkey of anywhere from 10 to 22 pounds to make a turducken ranging from a junior meat-bomb to a mighty anchor of meat, fit for a large, suburban family that shuns birth control. (My words, not his.)
The great, bifurcated, flattened slab of butterflied turkey, looking like a 3-D Rorschach print, is daubed with sausage (below left). Kenrick’s takes requests – many will choose a Mardi Gras Cajun spicy sausage; others will opt for a sweeter breakfast sausage. Atop that the butcher adds a layer of stuffing – either a traditional stuffing made with celery, onion, etc., or, for those who prefer, a cornbread stuffing.
Then, quack, quack, children, it’s time for the duck. Kenrick’s sears the deboned duckie to make it less greasy. After it’s positioned, Byassee adds a second layer of stuffing. Then, he places the “-en” suffix of the turducken, the chicken (below right). It’s simply a large, boneless, skinless, butterflied chicken breast.
Voila! The turducken has been assembled. But how to compress this beauty back into a turkey shape for roasting and serving? Byassee folds up the turducken, and cautiously places the beast into the wide end of a funnel-shaped, steel “jet netter” (below left), the same device used to wrap hams. A second butcher waits at the business end of the device, and as the bird is extruded through this metal cloaca, he encloses it in a string-net (below right). He ties the Turducken up with tender concentration, as if it were the tennis-shoe laces of a small child unable to re-tie them after a rowdy playground adventure has left her in dishabille.
Byassee explained that at this point the home cook would rub down the bird with butter or olive oil, season its exterior, and roast it at 350 degrees, for 15 to 20 minutes per pound. After leaving the oven, the flock of compressed birds should be cut open with a sharp knife or an electric knife to produce slices with concentric meats, for the wow-factor.
The turducken is the meaty star of the holiday show. But she’s not the only Norma Desmond ready for her close-up in this butcher shop, buddy. Kenrick’s is also proud of such impressive holiday showstoppers as their pork crown roast, fried and smoked turkeys, and standing prime rib roast. And you can’t forget that ol’ Christmas ham (no, not Bing Crosby). The shop will sell about 300 smoked, glazed hams for the holiday, explained Kenrick’s Steve Weinmann, roasted in a honey/cinnamon/brown sugar baste, and available in five different glazes -- Vermont maple, Hawaiian pineapple, peach, honey, and stone-ground mustard with cloves.
But, we ask you, can anything compare to the turducken, an unholy ménage a turkey that boggles even as it offers a sampler of America’s three most popular roastin’ fowls? Can any holiday dish take on this imperious queen of the dinner table, a dish so formidable it could make even eggnog-besotted Uncle Larry shut his trap for a minute in respectful appreciation when it makes its grand entrance at the annual Christmas Day dinner? The turducken is like the meatloaf sliced open to reveal a surprise hard-boiled egg, or Elvis Presley’s infamous Fool’s Gold Loaf, a loaf of bread hollowed out to hold its volatile cargo: a deathstorm of peanut butter, jelly, and bacon; yet, the turducken is so much more than these trifles. It is dark kitchen sorcery. It is a boundary-pushing, physics-challenging meat-thing. It is, as Winston Churchill famously said of Russia, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The riddle is a chicken. The mystery is a duck. The enigma is, of course, a turkey.
Kenrick’s Meats & Catering
4324 Weber Rd.