Ladies and Gentlemen, the Turducken Meatloaf
Occasionally, a recipe I read in a magazine or see prepared on the Food Network strikes my fancy. Other times, I’m positive I have come up with a new and original recipe not yet attempted. Sadly, in the case of Turducken Meatloaf, I’m not a unique little snowflake.
There is a hipper-and-expensiver-than-thou bistro-bar in Astoria, Queens, called William Hallet that makes one into a sandwich, and over at health-bent.com, they posted a fine recipe with a cherry compote finish. But I place myself in the Top 3, however, as I’ve come up with a version that honors the concepts of meatloaf while recognizing the unique palette matches required for poultry dishes.
To the uninitiated, a traditional Turducken is when you de-bone a turkey, a chicken, and a duck and stuff one inside the other and again into the turkey, then sew it all up and throw it into the oven. While the dish is often dismissed for being a novelty, the result is actually a very moist, complex roasted fowl.
In most turkey meatloaf recipes, the cook uses ground turkey and then proceeds to make meatloaf the same way you would with ground beef, pork, and veal. While this recipe works fine mixing in ketchup, tomato paste, worcestershire or chili sauce and even bacon, those elements detract from poultry flavors. Why not incorporate all the best cooking elements of roast turkey, rotisserie chicken, or duck a l’Orange to the mix instead?
It was in this spirit that I set out to make a test and then final version of my new recipe. In both versions, I barely bothered with exact measurements and instead cooked by rote and good sense. In the first version, I let the meat do the talking and bothered very little with trying to spice it up or define it. The turducken meatloaf 1.0 was mild and subtle. The second version worked more on textures and aromatics. The turducken meatloaf 2.0 allows oozing duck fat to become part of the mystery via venting holes while using minced parsley to hold in any vital spices and changing nuance.
Did I make mistakes in both versions? Yes. The first one was packed into the patented “Perfect Meatloaf Pan,” so it needed a bit more time to reach a proper internal temperature. In the second, I completely forgot the bulb of garlic roasting in the oven and was forced to divot them along the sides with the stalks of thyme and rosemary. However, I saved half the roasted cloves for the fingerling potatoes — luckily discovered at Pick ‘n’ Save (sometimes you can get lucky at chain grocery stores when they have unusual produce placed unceremoniously in a cardboard box with a made-up price) — and after steaming and halving them, the colorful little spuds were bathed in a pan of olive oil, butter, and cracked sea salt for a gorgeous finish.
Since I was forced to use a duck breast (nobody has ground meat) which I then minced in my food processor, the end product was like observing a slice of earth in a sedimentary layer. Leaving the carrots and celery in small cubes instead of pulping them also added to the presentation. One more key to the final version was the smell of garlic, rosemary and thyme wafting through the kitchen.
This recipe is meant for up to six guests, and I recommend creative side dishes. Along with the fingerling potatoes, I went with a simple homemade cranberry relish for contrasting tartness. I cheated on making the gravy; it’s nearly impossible to get homemade gravy right, and the modern jar versions are just fine warmed up with a little lemon juice for this recipe.
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 5 cloves of garlic, roasted in oven (see below)
- 2 teaspoon olive oil and 1 cube butter
- 1 carrot, cut into small cubes
- 2 celery hearts, cut into small cubes
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, rough crack
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning powder
- 3/4 cup fine cornbread stuffing crumbs
- 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely pulsed (with reserve stalks)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely pulsed (with reserve stalks)
- 1 whole large egg (optional)
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 1 lb. duck breast, fat trimmed away and sliced for processor use
- 1 small can portabella mushrooms
- juice from a lemon and/or orange to liking
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat pan to medium-high, then bathe with olive oil and butter until frothy (I actually put the removed sections of duck skin and fat into the pan with the olive oil to season it with flavor before removing them and adding the vegetables). Cook onion until brown and add garlic for one minute. Add chopped carrot and celery, mixing thoroughly. Once bits brown, slowly add the chicken stock and distribute vegetables equally in the pan. Reduce heat to medium and cover for two minutes, or until veggies are softened, and remove from heat.
Combine salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, cornbread stuffing, parsley, rosemary, and thyme in a food processor and blend until consistent. Remove from processor and set aside.
Slice duck breast and pulse in food processor to the consistency of ground poultry items. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, chicken, duck, breadcrumb mixture, chopped vegetables, and one egg (optional, since the duck fat within the breast meat acts as a binding agent).
Place in meatloaf pan (again, I like my As Seen on TV item for the material and drainage ability) and shape into an oblong loaf, leaving room on the sides. Sprinkle with lemon juice, and dress the sides with remaining rosemary and thyme stalks. Poke a few long holes randomly through the top of the meatloaf to let the duck fat escape during baking. Spread a few tablespoons of portabella mushrooms on top. Place meatloaf on the center oven rack for one hour and cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Happy Thanksgiving, loyal TCDers!
Coming soon (with a little luck): Wisconsin venison chili. Step one, befriend a hunter…