● By Aimee Cormier
By Shanna Perkins / Photos Submitted By Clients
As the holiday season approaches, unavoidable tinges of gluttony and greed begin to creep into play. While the appointed family chef starts envisioning their holiday feast, the bounds of grandiose begin to fade. The type of creativity that goes into creating such a banquet of bounty lends itself to the part creative genius, part mad scientist frame of mind necessary to create of the South’s favorite fusion of fowl – the Turducken.
Birds Of A Feather
Yes, the Turducken. Incase you aren’t familiar with the mammoth main dish; it’s a chicken – inside of a duck – inside of a turkey. In short, it’s 15 pounds of poultry. Each bird is deboned before being neatly placed within its two feathered friends. Between each bird is a layer of stuffing. While some suppliers stick with the can’t-miss traditional stuffing, others take a sky-is-the-limit approach with stuffings ranging from Creole pork and cornbread to seafood jambalaya.
As with all great things, there is a bit of a debate about the origins of the Turducken. The late great Louisiana legend Chef Paul Prudhomme claimed that he developed the bird. In 1986, he succeeded in trademarking the term Turducken. However, in 2005, National Geographic did a little investigating and traced the origins of the dish to Hebert’s Specialty Meats in Maurice. While the details are disputed, it’s obvious that South Louisiana was responsible for popularizing the dish.
How It Hatched
Louisiana may have made the rest of the world covet a Christmas centered around a Turducken, but the concept can be traced back to the fifth century. One particular recipe “Macrobius’ Roman Trojan Boar” calls for a pig “made pregnant with other animals and enclosed within as the Trojan horse was made pregnant with armed men.” From there the crazy combinations appear across the world throughout history.
The culinary term for the process of layering animals prior to cooking them is “engastration.” Gastronomic madman Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimond de la Reyniere displayed the method in its most lavish form in 1807. It should be noted that we are speaking of a man so extravagant he faked his own death so he could catch a glimpse of the crowd his funeral drew.
Grimon de la Reyniere named his dish “roti sans pareil” or “the roast without equal.” The recipe called for a bustard stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a guinea fowl stuffed with a teal stuffed with a woodcock stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a plover stuffed with a lapwing stuffed with a quail stuffed with a thrush stuffed with a lark stuffed with an ortolan bunting stuffed with a garden warbler. The garden warbler was stuffed with an olive stuffed with an anchovy stuffed with a caper. Each layer was pillowed with Lucca chestnuts and bread stuffing. It was then stewed in a sealed pot with onions, cloves, carrots, chopped ham, celery, thyme, parsley, mignonette, salted pork fat, salt, pepper, coriander, garlic and “other spices.” After its bath, it was cooked over a fire for a full 24 hours. Let’s recap. That’s a grand total of 20 layers, 17 of them birds. Bringing the critter count to 18 in one dish.
Pop Culture Poultry
The Turducken also has it’s own special place in popular culture. NFL commentator John Madden also had a hand, or a leg, in popularizing the dish. Madden often mentioned his Turducken fixation on air. In 1989 on Thanksgiving Day, a restaurant delivered a Turducken to Madden. He then offered one of its legs to Reggie White as the most valuable player award. The tradition was deemed the “Turkey Leg Award” and continued until 2001.
There was even a nod to the Turducken in a 2010 episode of the Emmy winning sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.” While hosting his first Thanksgiving, lead character Ted Mosby created a less creative version of the Turducken, the “tur-tur-key-key,” a turkey inside of another turkey.
Now that we’ve rounded out the history of the Turducken, let’s take it back to the boot.
Hebert’s Specialty Meat
Before they were credited with the invention of the Turducken, Hebert’s was known as the “home of the deboned stuffed chicken.” The store opened in August of 1984 and as owner Sammy Hebert explains, it was always their goal to sell good specialty meat at a fair price. But the December of the year they opened, their legacy took on a life of its own.
“The Turducken was created in December of 1984,” Hebert states frankly. “A farmer from town brought in a turkey, a duck and a chicken from his farm. He asked us if we could debone them and stuff them inside of each other. We agreed and the rest is history. After we made the first one, it started to spread through word of mouth. It just got bigger and bigger every year.”
Today, Hebert’s sells 3,500 Turduckens a year. Luckily for those not in driving distance of Maurice, Hebert’s ships their Turduckens. Customers can place an order on their website, hebertsmaurice.com. The birds come in options of “Regular Turducken” and “Mini Turducken.”
“We make 90 percent of what we call ‘regular,’ which is pork stuffing and cornbread dressing,” explains Hebert. “But with a special order, you can put any of the stuffing we make in each layer between the birds.”
Aside from being one of the key players in the debate on when and where the Turducken was invented, Hebert’s is no stranger to attention. In 1996, they appeared on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. And in 2004, Andrew Zimmern featured Hebert’s Turducken on an episode of the Travel Channel series “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.”
For more than 16 years, CajunGrocer.com has been Louisiana’s largest ecommerce storefront. Their inventory boasts over 2,000 unique and authentic Cajun and Creole products that they ship throughout the world. One of their most in-demand products is, of course, the Turducken. Their website states that they’ve never claimed to be the cheapest and they’re not the most expensive, but they’re certain after you’ve eaten your first Cajun Grocer Turducken you’ll find they’re “just right!”
“The Turducken is a handmade item that is a really unique creation. It’s a turkey, chicken and duck all in one!” exclaims Cajun Grocer owner Charlie Hohorst. “Between the trio of meats we include several stuffing variations. We offer creole pork with cornbread, cornbread only, seafood jambalaya – crawfish and shrimp, cornbread and pork rice dressing, chicken sausage and pork only.”
In addition to their stuffing options, Cajun Grocer also offers 4, 10 and 15-pound Turduckens. They ship their products to all 50 states, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Cajun Grocer ships an unparalleled 20,000 Turduckens a year. Their popularity has gained them national attention.
“Our national Turducken TV ad was featured on the Food Network, Bravo, Travel Channel and History Channel,” Hohorst explains. “The Wall Street Journal named us ‘Best Quality’ and ‘Price’ in a blind taste test. ‘Good Morning America’ featured our Turducken as a unique Thanksgiving alternative to a boring turkey.”
Poche’s Market, Restaurant & Smokehouse
The building blocks of Poche’s Market were laid sometime in the 1940s. When current owner Floyd Poche’s grandfather starting selling the pork, crackling and boudin from the pigs he slaughtered at his small store in Poche Bridge. In 1976, Floyd Poche purchased the family business from his father. While always maintaining the commitment to authentic Cajun products, Poche and his son Scotty added to the existing product list. And you better believe Turducken made the list.
“The reason we started making Turduckens is because it’s such a popular item and there was such a demand for them,” Poche explains. “I think they’re so popular because people are curious about them. What makes ours so unique is that we use Louisiana seafood in the Breaux Bridge Style. In the Poche Bridge style, we use our famous rice dressing, Cajun rice and cornbread dressing. And in the Cajun style, we always use the freshest ingredients.”
One of the expansions Poche brought to the family business was the addition of a USDA processing plant. This allows him to ship his family recipes and products across the United States. Poche has some advice for those who are still skeptical about trying Turduckens.
“If I met anybody that was afraid to try one of these delicious products I would say, ‘Come on, man! You need to eat that!’” he advises. “First timers can come into our store at 3015 Main Highway, Breaux Bridge or visit our website, pochesmarket.com.”
At 22 years old, Joey Beyt opened Joey’s – An Old Fashioned Meat Market. One move and countless remodels later, Joey’s is a Lafayette staple. Beyt credits much of his success and the restaurant’s growth (Turduckens included) to the support and guidance of his parents Bernard and Margaret Beyt.
“My mother is responsible for many of the recipes we have in place today,” Beyt explains. “It’s to her credit that we still make Turduckens today using the recipe and technique she researched and developed. I can’t tell you all of my mother’s secret recipes, but I can tell you that the way we put our Turduckens together helps them cook better than most.”
Joey’s offers two versions of the 12-pound roast. The first uses a seafood jambalaya as the stuffing. The second, their best seller, is the Cajun Turducken. It’s stuffed and seasoned with the trinity of vegetable and Joey’s blend of seasoning. They also feature a Turducken breast with Cajun stuffing; it’s smaller than a traditional Turducken and features only breast meat. The Turducken breast and the Turducken breast sandwiches are offered on their catering menu. Beyt likes to remind customers that the Turducken is more than just a silly word.
“Many people prefer traditional menu items and feel Turduckens are rather gimmicky,” he says. “In reality, they’re quite flavorful and offer a range of flavors for everyone. The easiest way to get your hands on one of our Turducken products is to call the store, (337) 237-3661 or order online at JoeysLafayette.com. They’re available for shipping, but quantities are limited.”