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LV Recommends: Augusta’s turducken

A turducken consists of a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey and often features traditional autumnal sides, like stuffing or sweet potatoes, between the poultry. -- photo by Nate Vack

A turducken consists of a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey and often features traditional autumnal sides, like stuffing or sweet potatoes, between the poultry. — photo by Nate Vack

If you’re at that phase of your life when you’re starting to branch out in your cooking (or you’re eating Totino’s pizza rolls while watching Food Network), you’ve noticed how good chefs team up several meats in one dish: jambalaya, paella (meat-lovers’ pizza, I see you) — and the autumnal variation: turducken.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, a turducken is a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. This dish, which dates back to ancient Rome, rose to widespread national popularity with Paul Prudhomme (succeeded by Emeril Lagasse) in New Orleans, and our own NOLA-seasoned gourmets, Ben & Jeri Halperin of Augusta Restaurant, have brought the tradition to Iowa City for all of us to enjoy. You can start small: Order it at the restaurant, and be amazed at the sides (mashed sweet potatoes with roasted praline topping!) and every bite afterwards.

Eventually, when you can’t stop dreaming about the andouille-cornbread stuffing drenched in the goodness of all three birds it padded, you might end up taking the next step and making this delicacy at your own home.

Fledgling home cooks who’ve attempted this say the prep is pretty much an all-night affair. But with Augusta’s pre-prepped take-home turducken (available to order from now until Nov. 17), the hard part is done.

Volunteer butchers get together to remove every single bone from the birds before layering them with stuffing and rolling them together like a Bûche de Noël for carnivores. Appropriately, a bottle of special liquor is served during the de-boning to boost morale.

You can reserve this delectable extravagance from Augusta, pick it up fresh, then pop it in the oven. Warm the two quarts of gravy that come with it and have a showstopper main dish ready to go for Friendsgiving.

I ordered mine and I can tell you — it was a hit. I was able to cook it after I got off work and had it on the table before it got late on a school night; I neatly served a 14-person party. They give you very specific directions, too, so this was basically like making a giant helping of Easy Mac, except swap the microwave for your oven.

Say you’re responsible for not just the carving station, but the entire meal — stop making yourself crazy worrying. The art of slow living is slowly, but emphatically, throttling us. You can have your own chickens, brine your own pickles and make your own ketchup the rest of the year. This holiday season, make it easier on yourself: Don’t just order the fresh turducken from Augusta, get the whole dang thing. Three birds in one, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberry — and they even throw in a pie for you. I’ll always love getting the “Thanksgiving Special” when I go into the restaurant, but the turducken was the funnest reason I’ve had to give a dinner party in quite some time.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 209.

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