A dinner party called “Turducken”
To begin, if you’re not sure what a Turducken is, click here.
6 years ago Thom and I decided we should cook a turducken. Thom had heard about it on the internet. Honestly, I thought the whole thing sounded pretty gross – especially since neither of us really likes turkey. We invited 12 friends and family and planned for a great dinner party on New Years Day. There was one fatal flaw to our plan. We couldn’t find a turducken. It was already past Christmas and although Thom has seen them at the grocery store prior to the 25th, they were long gone now. We couldn’t even get a butcher to make one with so little notice. I was too nervous to make one myself (having never even seen one!) so, we served a ‘deconstructed turducken;’ a roasted turkey breast, a roasted chicken, and I put a rubber duck on the platter. We vowed to do better the following year.
The following year we planned ahead and upped the stakes by inviting 20 people. We have a very small house so this meant removing most of the living room furniture and running the table (with lots of extensions) down the middle of the dining and living rooms. We ordered a turducken from a fancy butcher shop and planned the rest of the meal. Since a turducken is essentially about things being shoved into other things, we decided that was the overall theme of the evening. I had a couple of vegetarians coming so I decided to make a themed vegetarian option. It started with a carrot. I cut it in half, created a channel in the middle, and inserted one green bean. Then I wrapped the carrot in layers of swiss chard, roasted squash, and onions and garlic. The whole thing was encased in puff pastry. It was a strange yet tasty masterpiece. I wish I had taken a picture. Truthfully, the turducken was underwhelming. The butcher instructed me how long to cook it which meant I had to get out of bed at 3am to slather it with butter and put it in the oven. I think it was a bit overdone and unless you got a piece that included duck the whole thing was dry and uninspired. But what did inspire me was the idea of a great big dinner party with lots of courses and a theme that runs through the menu. With that, an evening we call “Turducken” was born.
We haven’t served a turducken since inception, and we have no plans of doing so, but we do pride ourselves on having served some amazing dinners.
The next year the theme was “Rustic and Runny.” Thom came up with the title. Although it sounds a bit distasteful, the meal was delicious. Some of the highlights include fondue, a celeriac remoulade, a beef daube, a bouiabaisse that cost me an absolute fortune (I wanted to weep at the fish shop), a sabayon, and a crème caramel. Everyone left stuffed and happy.
The next year we were away in Europe on vacation, so Turducken was on hiatus.
Last year – we upped the ante once again. First we moved dinner to New Years Eve instead of New Years Day. I had realized that I had previously been ringing in the new year covered in flour and eggs so maybe it was time to change the date. The theme was ‘Whipped and Puffed.’ I made 5 batches of puff pastry for the appetizers and the two wellingtons (beef and salmon). I also made a vegan option. There were gougerès, soufflés (I tried to make a vegan one for my vegan friend. A sad mess. We called it “souplé” He was kind and said it was tasty) , a citrus mousse, and a croquembuche (a tower of cream puffs). As I precariously stacked cream puffs and burned my fingerprints off with hot sugar, I realized that I loved the challenge of making new dishes on a large scale and trying to put them altogether in a cohesive and delicious meal.
And that brings us to this past year. Turducken 2015 – also known as ‘Braised and Bubbly.’ I loved this theme – suggested by my friend Claude – not only for the reason that it allowed me to get a lot done early and fully enjoy the party (I even managed to put lipstick on before people arrived!), but because it featured prosecco as a key dessert ingredient.
In the braised category we had braised pork, braised beans with fennel and molasses, braised leeks with comté cheese, and pickled veggie salad (ok, I stretched things here and decided to label pickling as “cold braising.”)
In the bubbly category we had cheese fondue, two types of homemade bread (yeast makes bubbles), sliced potato with bubbly raclette cheese, squash soup, fried chicken (because deep fat frying is really bubbly), 2 champagne cakes (Vegan and non-Vegan), champagne gelée, blood orange and champagne sorbet, and sponge toffee. It was a delicious meal.
I look forward to this event every year and as soon as I have finished one dinner I am already planning the next. While the food is delicious and I love the challenge of creating new dishes for the first time for a table of 16-20 people, what I love most is what the food does. Good food inspires conversation and laughter. It brings a table of people, who may not know each other very well, together. The room bubbles like champagne. This is how I want to ring in the new year, every year – with laughter, good food and wine, and a warm feeling of satisfaction from trying something new.
p.s. My cat, Ted, usually tends bar