The Mystery Surrounding The Infamous Turducken's Origins

Call it what you will, the Medieval Period, the Middle Ages, or the Dark Ages, we have a love affair with the shadowy centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Renaissance. Just look at the long popularity of fantasy literature, films, and television inspired by the period like the "Lord of The Rings" trilogy, and HBO's "Game of Thrones" and its prequel "House of the Dragon." It was a time of kings and knights, sorcery and legend, historical elements we can still feel and see with just enough unwritten mystery to allow our imaginations to run wild.

Accounts of foods in the Middle Ages seem like just that, with the Huffington Post reporting a roundup of dishes that seem grounded in reality but fueled by flights of fancy, such as fish sauce doughnuts and ostrich ragout. Another dish mentioned is dormice, which consists of dormouse stuffed with forcemeat and cooked. Whether you find roasted rodents repulsive or not, it is evidence of a culinary practice that arose during the period: Engastration, or stuffing with meat, either from the same type of animal or a different one altogether, reports the Tri-County Times.

Though the term itself has fallen out of favor, engastration has carried on, both in haute cuisine — ballotines and galantines fit the bill — and festive fare, such as the seasonally-appropriate Turducken.

A long history of stuffing food in food

Surely you've heard of Turducken, the chimeric combination consisting of a small, deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck stuffed into a partially deboned turkey. It is a staple of many Thanksgiving tables desirous of flare and flouting tradition. But from whence did the Turducken come from?

Taste of Home states that Turducken burst on the culinary scene in the 1970s. The man who took credit for the dish was a dining luminary of that era. Paul Prudhomme was a larger-than-life Louisana chef whose New Orleans restaurant K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen introduced numerous now-classic dishes like blackened redfish (via NOLA). Whether or not Prudhomme invented Turducken, the man responsible for launching it into the collective zeitgeist was National Football League (NFL) coach and broadcast legend John Madden. After being served a slice while in New Orleans, Madden became something of an evangelist for Turkducken's virtues. And given his sizable platform. Soon, people were curiously clamoring for a taste of their own.

If you're among the curious and have some time on your hands for an extensive prep, Serious Eats offers a comprehensive tutorial. If, however, you're horrified at the idea of any sort of engastration, consider that you may be a bit more familiar with it than you think. Porchetta is a popular Italian pork dish now commonly made with rolled pork shoulder or belly, but which once called for deboning, stuffing, and rolling a whole small pig, according to the European Union.