Thursday, December 25, 2008


I've been fascinated by the Turducken ever since I saw an ad for one a few years back. There's a sort of culinary machismo to making one of these. First you partially bone a turkey. Then you stuff it with layers - a layer of cornbread or highly seasoned bread stuffing, a boned duck, a layer of sausage stuffing, a boned Cornish game hen and a dollop of oyster stuffing.

The last few years have been The Years of Buying Groceries Wholesale which means getting frozen chickens by the dozen. A person can get tired of roast half bird. I've relieved the monotony with things like curry and tikka. Some time back I decided to learn how to do the kitchen equivalent of the Neutron Bomb. Destroy the bones, but leave the meat in one piece. After one or two inadvertent dinners of chicken hash later the technique was pretty much dialed in. If you haven't tried it you really should. The extra prep time more than pays for itself on the other end. The bird cooks faster and more evenly.

There were no game hens in the freezer, so this year it was just a Turduck. Last night I took the turkey and a duck out of the freezer and thawed them overnight under cold water. By morning the duck was just thawed. The turkey still had a little ice in the body cavity. Perfect for food safety and thawed enough for deboning.

Extracting the skeleton was routine. The turkey is bigger than a broiler chicken, and the keel presents some challenges, but the bones are all in the same place.

The traditional stuffing is a little over-seasoned for Tiel's tastes. I cooked up five or six handsful of couscous, mixed it with 3/4 cup of slivered almonds, a few serving spoonfulls of apricot preserves, cinnamon and three tablespoons of butter. The duck was stuffed with wild rice and shiitake.

Deboning the birds reduced the cooking time from six hours to four and a half, not bad for less than an extra hour of prep time.

Was it worth it? Yes, I think so. The variety of textures and flavors is very nice. The turkey soaks up some of the oil from the duck leaving both birds about as oily as they should be.

Next year I'll make sure we have a game hen. If I'm feeling adventurous maybe we'll have emturduckenrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Couple Gun/Science Links

There's a certain sort of martial artist who appreciates the philosophical purity of Ed Parker's Creed:
I come to you with only empty hands, I have no weapons, but should I be forced to defend myself, my principles or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong; then here are my weapons, my empty hands.
There's another sort who reads nothing but Tom Clancy novels and touches him (usually "him") self reading comparison reports between the latest Kimber and Taurus 1911s.

Most of us are somewhere between the two extremes. Self defense is part of why we do this, and self defense is about maximizing your chances of spending the night at home instead not in an ER or the County Jail. From there it's a hop and a skip to looking at other animals with their fangs and claws and stingers and realizing that we're pretty pathetic when it comes to natural armament. The only things we have going for us are an overdeveloped brain and opposable thumbs. So it's time to take The Once and Future King down off the shelf and read the bit about the creation of the animals. Or go to Amazon and search inside the book. Start with the part on pages 194-196 with the words "badger" and "God". And a lot of us start thinking hard about legal weapons.

Some time I'll dust off an old rant about why weapons in general and guns in particular are a bad place to start your self defense strategy. When you need one, nothing else will do the job quite as well. If you decide to keep them around you need good information. It's easy to spend far too many hours and dollars getting equipped. Consumer Reports doesn't do reviews of weapons. They also don't do reviews of religions. There may be a connection. Other than Gun Tests most of the magazines are nothing but thinly disguised advertising copy.

I've always liked The Box O' Truth where the motto is "Shooting stuff is fun". Old_Painless uses a lot of different guns and sees what happens when you put myths in The Box of Truth. How far do shotgun pellets really spread? Will birdshot penetrate walls? Can a Buick stop a bullet? Is hand-loaded ammunition really more accurate than cheap commercial stuff? In its specialized way the information is very useful. And watching him shoot stuff really is fun.

Today's find was Ballistics by the Inch. A physicist, a book conservator and a gun geek don't walk into a bar. But they do test out a variety of ammunition in over a dozen calibers and barrel lengths from two to eighteen inches answering the question "How much does barrel length matter?" They document their experiments. They describe their protocols. They make their datasets available. They use ammunition that a real person might put in a self defense pistol. And they compare their idealized test gun (Thompson Contender with interchangeable barrels) to regular carry pieces. It isn't world-shaking. But it does answer a couple important questions with good science.