Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pray for Me - 13 (or 15) guests coming for Thanksgiving Dinner TONIGHT - I am making a TURDUCKEN

I like to look at the positive side of everything... I have two bits of good news to only one bit of bad news...
  • Good news, on Thursday (actual Thanksgiving Day), I have almost no cooking duties to perform. I am going to smoke a beer butt turkey (small, only 12 pounds), other than that, no side dishes, no desserts, no drinks, nothin!
  • Good news, I own a TURDUCKEN (semi-boneless TURkey, wrapped around a de-boned DUCK, wrapped around a boneless ChickEN! And that set of birds is going to fulfill their special purpose tonight for 13 to 15 of my closest friends.
  • Bad news (according to my wife... Me, I am pretty psyched about this), I am cooking everything, the birds, the salads, the appetizers, the sides, the desserts... Even gonna have some mulled wine to great my guests when they arrive (makes your house smell festive).

First, a little advertising... The very good folks at CAJUNGROCER.COM were generous enough to offer me a Turdukcen to try for the holidays. They have a wonderful history of being VERY nice to bloggers throughout the years, and this year, I was selected to receive the birds! They have a fabulous website, you can reach by clicking HERE. Once there, you will find an amazing assortment of New Orleans/Cajun/ Louisiana specialty sauces, rubs, spices, snacks, gifts, fresh food and prepared mixes.. AND MUCH MORE! A huge thanks to these good folks for making me the star of the neighborhood (or the goat of the neighborhood, I am starting to feel the pressure).

OK, usually, when I send out invitations, I get a majority yeses, but a few nos. For the Turduken Thanksgiving meal, I got NO nos. In fact, I got a few additional requests to come (which is great, how much harder to cook for 13 (or 15) than it is to cook for 6? I mean really, how much harder could it be??? really, someone tell em, how much harder??? ???)

The key to this evening will be having a game plan. What can be cooked ahead of time needs to be done ahead of time. What needs to be served hot needs to be ready to put in the oven at the right time, and oven space needs to be delegated. I have read several sites recently which stress getting organized. Today's post is going to be my organizational plan...

First set your menu..

Main course is the Turducken, but first...

Appetizer course -
  • Cream cheese/Raspberry Chiptle dip with fancy crackers
    Gonna need three stations of these around the tables
  • Son-in-law Eggs (kind of an Asian deviled egg)
  • Grandma Sally's Marinated Mushrooms
  • Cup of Mulled wine
Salad course -
  • A classic Waldorf Salad
Main course, sides served with the Turduken...
  • Anadama Rolls
  • Savory Bread Pudding
  • Sweet potato Boats with Cajun Corn Casserole stuffing
  • Gravy
And for dessert -
  • Flowered Apple Pie (one stuffed with cheddar cheese, one normal)

9 dishes to be made, but only 4 need to be served hot. Sure, I can do this, why not? Really, some one contact me and give me a reason why not to do this... please.

OK, unless I can come up with a reason to NOT do this, here is my timetable...

When I say dinner is at 6, I actually mean I intend to start serving dinner at around 6:15 to 6:30. This allows people to be a bit late, get coats off, and to look at the birds (if I time it right, I will have the birds off the smoker at about 5:45, let them rest before slicing in).

So, here's my day...

8 AM - deal with the physical. I need to come up with a table that will seat 13 (or 15). I have folding tables ready to add in the dining room, and on paper, I can make everything fit. No need to wait til the last minute on this one, as Jackie's contribution will be to do table settings and decorations. Hopefully this will keep her busy all day and keep her out of my kitchen. I will also add a smaller table in the kitchen to act as an extra prep area. I also will be doing a basic cleaning of the smoker (empty ash pan and check water pan.

9 AM - Start cooking. The rolls have to rise (being the master baker that I am, I know all about baking bread (god help me). But, I have made a single bread recipe, so I am confident that I can make these work. Make the bread/rolls dough and let it do what it does.

9:30 - While the dough is rising, make the waldorf salad. Nothing tricky about this, just a bunch of chopping.

10 AM - Start on the Marinated mushrooms

10:30 - deal with the bread dough. It needs to be "punched down" and given a 10 minute rest before baking (I will be closer to 20-30 minutes, but that shouldn't hurt the dough - should it???).

10:35 - start my chimneys for the smoker. When I say smoker, i will actually be using my smoker as more of an oven. I need to get the temperature up to @325-350, so that will mean extra coal. 2 chimney fulls (I do have 2 chimneys) of lit coal will get it up. Lighting coal is a bit time consuming, as I don't use chemicals to start my fire. But while it is slowly heating up, I am free to do their things...

11 - pop the rolls in the oven. I got the recipe from a fellow blogger (that i will be bragging about if it works and ignore if it doesn't). She gave hints on reheating the rills, so I am thrilled to get these out of the way.

11:05 - prep the smoker, get the coals going and heat the chamber to temp

11:10 - prep the birds for the smoker. They come all ready to go, but that isn't good enough for me. I am going to add a bit of rub, and inject some marinade before popping it on the smoker.

11:30 - cooking time! The bird goes on the smoker. The advertised cooking time is 5 hours. by smoking, I can not guarantee the temp will remain consistent, so i will be cooking to internal temperature, not time. I am building in an additional potential 2 hours to the cooking time. Once it is up to proper temp, I will foil and allow to rest in a cooler (no ice). I am worried least about the birds.

11:45 - Son-in-law eggs. Again, recipe from the Internet, but sounds easy enough.

noon - check on the smoker, continue with the eggs

12:30 - check on the smoker (DOES NOT MEAN OPENING THE SMOKER. opening will lose heat, just check the outside thermometer to be sure the temp is stable), start prepping the apple pie. Lots of cutting and homemade pie crust (god help me). This will take a long time to prep.

1 pm - check on the smoker

1:30 - start the pies cooking and start prepping the Sweet potato boats. I have blogged before about these, but I only made 4 before. NOW, I am making 15. But I have an idea to make it easier... will blog later if it works.

2 - check on the smoker

2:30 - check on the smoker, pies are done, potatoes are ready to be stuffed, but I want to serve them hot from the oven, so I will just set them aside. I can break up the bread for the bread pudding. It will help it get more stale (odd concept, but stale bread absorbs the moisture of the bread pudding goop). But again, I want to serve this hot. So I will break up the bread, but set aside.

3 PM - check the smoker, all of the advance prep work is done. Now is the time to double check more of the physical. I need 15 appetizer plates, 15 dinner plates and 15 dessert plates. I need 15 spoons, forks and knifes... Actually 30 forks if you let people have a fresh one for dessert (Jackie will be doing the dishes, so the extra forks may be flexible). I will also need to borrow 4 chairs from a neighbor. this is the time to get them.

3:30 - double check the smoker and for the first time, open the smoker and check internal temperature. Do this as fast as possible, don't want to lose heat. Will probably need to add coal.

3:35 - rest, ponder, make sure all is right with the world and get ready for the rush hour...

4 PM - check the smoker

4:30 check the smoker and the temperature of the birds. This is the 5 hour mark. It is possible the bird is done, so have foil and the cooler sitting by just in case.

5 PM check the smoker and the temperature of the birds. This is the 5 hour mark. It is possible the bird is done, so have foil and the cooler sitting by just in case. Start browning the sausage for the savory bread pudding. Use the sausage drippings to make a gravy.

5:15 PM start working on the corn casserole stuffing for the potatoes, fill the taters. start dealing with the savory bread pudding

5:30 PM Continue checking the smoker if needed, and, into the oven, bread pudding AND the Potato boats, and start the Mulled wine. finish the gravy.

6 pm, add the raspberry sauce to the cream cheese, put the turduken at the center of the table for everyone to ohhh and ahh over. guests arrive and start serving courses...

Cup of wine as they arrive,
finger foods of the crackers, cream cheese and eggs

6:15 serve salad and check the taters and pudding (put pies on the oven turned off, the warm oven will warm the pies

while guests are eating salads,

6:15 carve the Turducken and start plating

6:30 sit and bask in the glory that is my cooking

7 or later serve the apple pie ala mode

What could possible be easier??? Will let you know tomorrow...

Wish me good luck, or pray to the gods of your choice (not going to be picky, need all the help I can get


  1. Hells bells, cooking for 17 can't be any harder than 15, what time should Alexis and I be there? ;)

    Good luck. I know you will sleep well tonight! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the turducken.

  2. You have everything under control. Your guests will have a blast.

  3. This sounds like an incredible feat. Of epic culinary proportions.

    I would love to try a turducken someday. I have heard so much about them...maybe when I have my own thanksgiving at my own place. I don't think my parents are quite adventurous enough to give it a go. Plus I feel like they would ruin it by overcooking it (they are the kind of people who dont' want to see any red in their steaks at all whatsoever).

    I KNOW that you can do this. Love the time plan.

  4. You are sooooo organized that everything should go off without a hitch! The key is to start early, even days ahead. I've done Thanksgiving for as few as four and as many as 25! It's a labor intensive meal, but it looks like you have everything under control. The Turducken will blow their minds! Really good stuff and really Cajun! Good luck, cher, I know you can do it!! And don't forget to have a Sazerac or two, along the way! :)

  5. My invite is the second important piece of mail I've not received lately. We discussed turducken at dinner last night so I'm looking forward to your results. PS - I thought I was the only anal one who makes a plan like that :)

  6. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you today! Good luck with everything. I'm sure it will all be absolutely wonderful! :-)

  7. Oh my goodness, I hope you can squeeze some picture taking in with that schedule!!

  8. What the??? I have never heard of a Turducken. Very interesting. Sounds like you have a fabulous plan and I'll be waiting with baited breath for the post-motem blog post.

  9. My goodness, you are one courageous man! But I'm sure everything will be marvelous! I hope you get some pics to share with us!

  10. Sounds absolutely like a spectacular menu. You sound like you have a great plan.. You'll do wonderfully. I wish I was coming. Hoping your going to provide all the recipes..

  11. I'm amazed at all the free samples of stuff you get, Dave! Canadian bloggers do seem to get the bum rap in that area!

    I've always wanted to try Turducken!

  12. You can do it. You are Superman!

  13. Sounds Great! Good Luck... although I know you don't need it!

    And you're right... cooking for a crowd is no different than for six.... I have a houseful coming on Thursday.... a set showing up on Wednesday and another set coming on Thursday and staying for the weekend... so let the cooking begin!

  14. What? No Penis Potatoes? ;)

    Seriously: Cooking for a large group is not significantly harder than cooking for a medium-sized group. Prep time increases a bit, and plating time definitely increases (unless you're serving family style), but the bulk of the work, the cooking and stirring and monitoring, doesn't change overmuch. Unless you're doing a banquet for a hundred, of course.

    Which is why, when I do a dinner party, if I start by inviting ten, I'm happy to pile on another four or six or eight. Making ten people's worth of food is already a fair amount of work, throwing another 50% worth of ingredients into the stewpot is hardly noticed in the grand scheme.

    And speaking of grand schemes, your project plan is definitely impressive. It's exactly that kind of advance work that makes a feast like this possible. People who don't do that are the ones who usually get themselves in trouble, anxiously poking the turkey in the oven at 9pm while their guests get drunker and angrier in the other room. :)

  15. My invitation must have been lost in the mail! Everything looks wonderful, and I am sure it all went well.

    It's so funny, we can spend all day in the kitchen and its gobbled up in minutes! :D

  16. We had our first of two Thanksgiving dinners yesterday too. Your menu sounds wonderful. Hope it went well. I'd love to hear what you thought of the turducken. I'm curious about them...

  17. You will need assistants, don't be afraid to draft a few good cooks..(hint hint!) I've done mobs, but the bigger the mob, the less gourmet rule of thumb kicks in...Good Luck!

  18. LOVE Cajun Grocer and props to you for getting the boys are dying for one!!

  19. An expansive and delicious menu. It sounds top shelf all the way.