|30 lb. roasted turducken|
The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken. The dish is a form of engastration, which is a recipe method in which one animal is stuffed inside the gastric passage of another.
The thoracic cavity of the chicken/game hen and the rest of the gaps are stuffed, sometimes with a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird. The result is a fairly solid layered poultry dish, suitable for cooking by braising, roasting, grilling, or barbecuing.
A New Orleans surgeon, Dr. Gerald R. LaNasa, was locally known for his use of a scalpel in deboning his three birds of choice, sometimes adding pork or veal roasts in the final hen's cavity, thus preserving the turducken tradition as a regional holiday favorite of the southern United States. Andouille sausage and Foie Gras were always key ingredients of the LaNasa creations. The results of Dr. LaNasa's work can be found in the modern day mass-produced turducken or turduckhen (another variation adding or substituting a cornish game hen). His turkey, duck, and chicken ballotine is now widely commercially available under multiple trademark names. Dr. LaNasa's innovation and success with ballotine, Three Bird Roast and turducken began mid century, expanding in the 1960s and seventies long before many of the popular commercial Cajun/Creole chefs of today took the stage. In 1986 Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme trademarked the Turducken name.
In the United Kingdom, a turducken is a type of ballotine called a "three-bird roast" or a "royal roast". The Pure Meat Company offered a five-bird roast (a goose, a turkey, a chicken, a pheasant, and a pigeon, stuffed with sausage), described as a modern revival of the traditional Yorkshire Christmas pie, in 1989; and a three-bird roast (a duck stuffed with chicken stuffed with a pigeon, with sage and apple stuffing) in 1990. Multi-bird roasts are widely available.
In his 1807 Almanach des Gourmands, gastronomist Grimod de La Reynière presents his rôti sans pareil ("roast without equal")—a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler—although he states that, since similar roasts were produced by ancient Romans, the rôti sans pareil was not entirely novel. The final bird is very small but large enough to just hold an olive; it also suggests that, unlike modern multi-bird roasts, there was no stuffing or other packing placed in between the birds.
Gooducken is a goose stuffed with a duck, which is in turn stuffed with a chicken.
An early form of the recipe was Pandora's cushion, a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a quail.
Another version of the dish is credited to French diplomat and gourmand Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. The 1891 newspaper article French Legends Of The Table offers Quail a la Talleyrand:
The following for instance, is Talleyrand's fanciful and somewhat roundabout way of roasting a quail.
The book Passion India: The Story of the Spanish Princess of Kapurthula (p. 295) features a section that recounts a similar dish in India in the late 1800s: "Invited by Maharajah Ganga Singh to the most extraordinary of dinners, in the palace at Bikaner, when Anita asks her host for the recipe of such a succulent dish, he answers her seriously, "Prepare a whole camel, skinned and cleaned, put a goat inside it, and inside the goat a turkey and inside the turkey a chicken. Stuff the chicken with a grouse and inside that put a quail and finally inside that a sparrow. Then season it all well, place the camel in a hole in the ground and roast it."
Vi Hart's video "Thanksgiving Turduckenen-duckenen" shows her making what she calls a "turduckenailailenailailduckenailailenailail." This is a binary tree variant of turducken, in which she places two quail eggs inside each of two hens inside each of two ducks in a turkey.
John Madden, a commentator for National Football League broadcasts, often expressed his fondness for the dish on-air. While covering Bounty Bowl I on Thanksgiving 1989, local restaurant owner Joe Pat Fieseler of Harvey's Barbecue, a restaurant located less than a mile from Texas Stadium where the game was being played, delivered a turducken on-air to Madden, who promptly offered one of the turkey's legs to Reggie White as a most valuable player award. Madden continued the tradition of a "Turkey Leg Award" during the NFL's Thanksgiving Day games on CBS and, after 1993, Fox, until he left Fox in 2001. On the November 9, 2008 broadcast of NBC Sunday Night Football, Madden responded to a fan's sign reading "JOHN MADDEN, BRING BACK TURDUCKEN" by calling his fixation with turducken "a thing of the past," stating that he would return to a traditional turkey for subsequent Thanksgivings.
The sitcom How I Met Your Mother aired an episode referring to a turducken.
In episode 7.9 "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters" of the series Supernatural, Dean nearly goes from being hero to victim after eating The Pepperjack Turducken Slammer from Biggerson's.