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Time is Running Out to Get Your Thanksgiving Turducken

By Janet Rausa Fuller | November 16, 2012 10:30am
 A turducken at Paulina Meat Market comes deboned, stuffed, wrapped and ready to bake.
A turducken at Paulina Meat Market comes deboned, stuffed, wrapped and ready to bake.
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Paulina Meat Market/Dave Gathy

CHICAGO — The turducken comes but once a year, if that.

And the window on securing this Southern curiosity — a chicken in a duck in a turkey — for your Thanksgiving table is quickly closing.

At Gepperth's Market in Lincoln Park, all turducken orders needed to be in by the end of Wednesday. They cost $8.99 a pound.

"I think we have five or 10 orders," said butcher Don McCormick. "And thank God for that, because there's a lot of work involved with those."

Here's how high-maintenance the turducken is: The bones of the chicken and the duck and most of the turkey, save for the drumsticks and wings, need to be removed. Purists say there should be stuffing between each layer of poultry.

At Paulina Meat Market in Lakeview, turduckens are priced at $8.95 a pound and are already prepped, stuffed, wrapped and frozen. Customers have until Saturday to snag one.

The shop prepares more than 200 turduckens this time of year.

"We sell out every year," said butcher Dave Gathy.

While the modern turducken is widely believed to have come out of Louisiana, the practice of stuffing large fowl with many smaller ones goes back centuries before sportscaster John Madden began talking it up on Thanksgiving Day football broadcasts.

"You can trace it back to the 1700s in France," said chef Greg Ellis of 2Sparrows in Lakeview.

Ellis is something of a turducken expert. This will be his seventh year making a turducken for his own Thanksgiving dinner with friends. He is up to six birds — turkey, duck, chicken, Cornish game hen, squab and quail.

"And just for my own comedic touch, I put a hardboiled egg in the center," he said.

Last week, Ellis led a turducken-making class at 2Sparrows for 15 people, most of whom he said seemed serious about making their own turducken.

Ellis' advice for home cooks: brine in advance; cook "low and slow" (275 degrees works for Ellis), and cover the bird with an aluminum foil tent while roasting to prevent drying out.

If you don't want to cook but still want turducken, Brand BBQ Market, 2824 W. Armitage Ave., offers Turducken Tuesdays, where for $19.95 you get a plateful of turducken, stuffing, mashed potatoes and turducken gravy. The weekly special is available year-round.