For Your Holiday Celebration, Cast Iron Turducken

Cast Iron Turducken

Modern-SW-coverFrom the always-creative mind of Chef Ryan Clark comes this savory Southwestern cassoulet. Unlike the bird-in-a-bird-in-a-bird construction most people think of when they hear the word turducken, this savory dish layers flavors – turkey machaca made from legs simmered in duck fat, chicken chorizo, and to finish it off, a touch of decadent foie gras butter.

This isn’t a last-minute, throw-it-together dish. You may have to work a little to find quality ingredients, but we’ll give you some suggestions to get you started. While the ingredient list is long (and extravagant) and the steps are many, the actual cooking is straightforward and simple. The nice thing about serving this at your holiday party is that you can prepare the machaca, chorizo, and tepary beans days in advance, and then finish the cooking in about 30 minutes. It takes planning, time, and lots of love, but isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Serves 6-8 

Turkey Confit Machaca

4 turkey legs, about 2 pounds
1/4 cup cumin seeds, toasted and crushed
1 ounce Basic Cure (See note)
2 quarts rendered duck fat (See note)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
2 limes, juice and zest
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups chicken stock

Rub the turkey legs with the toasted cumin seeds and Basic Cure. Place the legs in a 1-gallon plastic zipper bag for 3 days, turning over every day and distributing the liquid. After 3 days, remove the legs from the bag, rinse off the liquid, and place in the refrigerator on a kitchen towel. Air dry for at least 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees F.

In a small saucepan, warm the duck fat until melted. Place the turkey legs in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Pour the warmed duck fat over the legs until they’re covered. Place in the oven and cook at a very low simmer for 8 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. The meat should fall from the bones and be exceedingly tender. Remove the turkey meat from the bones and discard the bones and skin.

In a large stock pot, simmer the turkey meat, red onion, jalapeno, red bell pepper, cumin, paprika, lime juice and zest, cilantro, and chicken stock. Reduce until the liquid has completely evaporated. Remove from heat and refrigerate until ready to use.


  • Basic Cure – Combine a half pound of kosher salt, half cup of sugar, and an ounce of pink curing salt. Store in a tightly sealed jar and use it to cure your own salmon, trout, or pork. Use 2 ounces for every 5 pounds of meat.
  • Ask at your local meat market for rendered duck fat, or look for it in high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods. You can also source it online at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. You can save the duck fat for other uses (like roasted potatoes) by straining it and keeping it in a tightly-sealed jar in the refrigerator or freezer.

Chicken Chorizo

1 pound boneless chicken thighs, or 1 pound ground chicken
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon annatto, ground
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cloves garlic

Grind together the chicken thighs, cayenne, paprika, annatto, chile pepper flakes, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cover and chill 1 hour.  If you’re using ground chicken, mince the garlic and then combine all of the ingredients by hand. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the turducken, up to three days.

The Turducken

1 quart chicken stock
2 ounces oil
1/2 cup shallots, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup white wine
2 cups cooked tepary beans (See note)
2 jalapenos, sliced
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup foie gras butter (Recipe follows)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan and cook until reduced by half. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron pot and add the oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender. Add the chicken chorizo and sauté until the meat is cooked and resembles cooked ground beef, 6-8 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the turkey machaca, tepary beans, jalapenos, and reduced chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Fold in the asparagus and foie gras butter, add the salt and pepper to taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Remove from the heat and serve from the pot with a rustic grilled bread loaf for dipping.

Tepary beans are a dry-land bean that require lots of soaking and cooking time. You can find them at Native Seeds/Search, the San Xavier Co-op Farm, or Tohono O’odham Community Action.

Foie Gras Butter
Makes 1 pound
Be sure to source your foie gras from a company like Hudson Valley Foie Gras that raises ducks humanely. If you buy a whole liver, you can slice and grill it and then use the scraps for making this delectable treat, which works well to finish risottos and sauces, or even as a spread for a loaf of grilled rustic bread.

1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 pound foie gras scraps
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon brandy

Let the butter and foie gras come to room temperature.

Using a standing mixer with a paddle, whip the foie gras and butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the salt, thyme, and brandy. Whip again 30 seconds until combined.

Roll in parchment paper or place in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to one week.

You’ll find this recipe, along with many other inventive Southwest dishes in Modern Southwest Cooking by Chef Ryan Clark.

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