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STEP 3: De-boning the Turkey/Duck/Chicken
1 15-20 lb. turkey
1 5-6 lb. duck
1 3-4 lb. chicken
1. Your goal is to end up with one large piece of essentially boneless turkey meat; the finished product will contain only the tip end of each leg bone and the first two joints of each wing. And you will end up with a completely boneless duck and chicken.
2. Try not to pierce the turkey skin except for your initial cuts. Any slits enlarge during roasting and make the end result drier and less attractive.
3. Allow plenty of time for the de-boning procedure; the meat is not tough and you want to end up with as much of it as possible.
4. Use a sharp boning knife and work mainly with the tip, staying close to the bone at all times. De-bone one side of each bird at a time before moving to the other side.
Put on your apron, roll up your sleeves, and let’s begin.
Place the turkey, breast down, on a flat surface. Make an incision the entire length of the backbone through the skin and meat. Starting from the neck end and using the tip of the knife, follow as closely to the bone as you can, carefully teasing the skin and meat away from the frame. Toward the neck end, cut through the meat to expose the shoulder blade (feel for it first and cut through small amounts of meat at a time if you have trouble locating it); cut the meat away from around the bone and sever the bone at the joint so you can remove the blade.
Disjoint the wing between the second and third joint; free the heavy drumstick of the wing and remove it, being careful to leave the skin intact. Continue teasing the meat away from the backbone, heading toward the thigh and being careful to keep the "oyster" (the pocket of meat on the back) attached to the skin instead of leaving it with the bone.
Cut through the ball-and-socket joint to release the thigh bone from the carcass; you should now be able to open the bird up more in order to see what bones are still left to deal with. Continue teasing the meat away from the carcass until you reach the center front of the breast bone. Then slowly and carefully separate the skin from the bone without piercing the skin that is very thin at this point.
Repeat the same de-boning procedure on the other side of the turkey. When both sides are finished, carefully remove the carcass and save it for the gravy stock (Step 4). Then remove the thighbone and leg bone on each side as follows. Being careful not to break through the skin, use a small hammer and/or clever to break the leg bone completely across, about two inches from the tip end. Then manipulate both ends of the bone with your hands to be sure the break is complete. Leave the tip of the bone in, but remove the leg bone and thighbone as one unit. To do this, cut the meat away from around the thighbone first, using the knife tip; then, holding the thighbone up with one hand, use the other hand to carefully cut the meat away from around the leg-thigh joint; don't bother to cut through this joint. Then use the blade of the knife to scrape the meat away from the leg bone; remove the leg-thigh bone. With your hands or the knife, one by one remove as many pin bones from the leg meat as possible; then, if necessary, pull the tip of the leg bone to turn the meat to the inside (so the skin is on the outside and it looks like a turkey again). Lay the de-boned turkey on a sheet pan and immediately place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
To de-bone the duck & chicken: Follow the same procedures you did to de-bone the turkey, except this time you will remove all of the bones. To de-bone each wing, cut off the first two joints of the wing, leaving the wing's drumstick. Cut the meat from around the drumstick and remove this bone. When you reach the thigh, follow the thigh-leg bone with the knife blade to release the bone as one unit; again, be careful not to cut the skin. Trim some of the excess skin and fat from around the neck area. Refrigerate the bird and save the carcass to roast for the gravy stock.
Roast the bones & prepare gravy stockPreheat the oven to 400°. Use a large chef’s knife or a clever to chop the carcasses into pieces of reasonable size. Place them with the bones and neck in a roasting pan.
Add2 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 celery stalks with tender leaves, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 small yellow onions, quartered 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Spray the veggies lightly with cooking spray and toss. Roast in the oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until the bones are golden brown, about 40 minutes. Transfer the contents of the roasting pan to a stockpot. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of water, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Add1 quart low-sodium chicken broth (I like the Swanson 32-ounce aseptic box) 2 additional cups water 2 cups dry white wine or dry French vermouth 6 sprigs fresh thyme 1 bay leaf
Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, skimming the fat and scum off the surface for 30 minutes. Simmer until the stock has reduced by half and has a rich poultry flavor, about 2-3 hours. Strain the stock, season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate it until the fat congeals.
Even before I made a Turducken, this was my go-to stuffing for Thanksgiving. It’s based on years of experimenting with an old Julia Child recipe. I used to add apples, but I’ve now dropped them for the Turducken; the choice is yours. If you’ve got a food processor, it’s the way to go for chopping veggies or mincing fresh herbs.
With all three stuffings, the goal is to chill them as quickly as possible to avoid bacterial growth. If you are short of cookie sheets, you may transfer the stuffings to other containers after they are cold (about an hour) and keep them refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the Turducken in Step 8.
1 pound of breakfast sausage with sage (I use the Jimmy Dean brand)2 cups chopped onions ½ cup chopped celery stalks 1 recipe yellow cornbread (Step 1) cut into 1/4–3/8” cubes 2 slices dense white sandwich bread, e.g. Pepperidge Farm, cut into 1/4–3/8” cubes 2 large eggs, lightly beaten 1½ cups pecan halves, toasted & coarsely chopped 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped (optional) 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage, or to taste ½ cup minced Italian parsley 2 teaspoons dried thyme Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 4 ounces (one stick) melted butter
Toast the pecan halves over medium heat in a dry, large frying pan, tossing occasionally for even heating, until lightly browned and aromatic; transfer the nuts to a cookie sheet and coarsely chop when cool enough to handle. Sauté the sausage meat in the frying pan, breaking it into small pieces. When the sausage is no longer red, transfer it with a slotted spoon into a large mixing bowl containing all the bread cubes, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the chopped onions to the sausage fat and sauté until tender and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the chopped celery and sauté 2 minutes more. Scrape the contents of the frying pan into the mixing bowl with the bread cubes. Add the beaten eggs, pecans, seasonings to taste, and lightly fold in the melted butter. Remove from heat and spread on a cookie sheet as thinly as possible. Refrigerate immediately until the stuffing is cold, about an hour. Transfer to a container and keep refrigerated.
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