the space shuttle turkey

November 26th, 2007 · 20 Comments


it was an angela thing and it all started when she sent me a link along with a two word email that said "interesting, huh?".

my god, so much has happened since then. the birds have long been roasted to a golden hue and feasted uponwhile the carcass has been turned into a rich stock tucked away in my freezer. but at the risk of whatever reputation i might have, it is both my pleasure and responsibility to present to you the saga of an inside-out very misunderstood version of the much more familiar and accepted turducken - the ducurkey. or as we here at ‘ceF’ like to call it, The Space Shuttle Turkey.

let me continue on by reminding you that i’m an excitable kinda gal. it doesn’t take much to get me up and on a bandwagon. and so i was all about the space shuttle turkey. because why can’t the thanksgiving turkey have a little fun? we are typically so very steeped in our perfect execution of the traditional holiday meal, that i felt the dinner centerpiece could stand a little something extra ordinary, something well, perhaps (ahem) out of this world?

but it still had to taste great – it had to work on every level. and so began the quest for success… i tossed the concept around with a few fellow bloggers to get some feedback. i emailed and then had a phone conversation with the guy who originally put the recipe up online and i quizzed two local chefs to within an inch of their patience. one feared the duck might dry out by the time the turkey got done, the other implemented a tightly lidded roasting pan with an over night slow cook method. based on all the bits and pieces of info and various theories of how to make this venture a go, i began to formulate my technique. and then i asked a highly revered guy in the world of fine food. a well trained cook and a respected authority on all things meat- michael ruhlman. after he scoffed at the mere concept from a few different angles and then almost got over his apparent disdain for the whole general idea, he brought up a mildly amused concern or two about the cooking process described in the recipe that i’d handed him. but i wasn’t letting michael off the hook. being the relentlessly curious person that i am, a few days later i carefully pushed this whole thing even further. and his response was "why on earth, claudia, are you so obsessed with the space shuttle ducurky?". and i had myself a little smile. because for better or worse – it was just me, being me. so thanksgiving morning arrived and i get this email from angela:

Hello Houston,How are preparations for Lift-Off? Has the countdown begun? Engines tested and thrusters checked? Flaps and Panels ready for supersonic blast? The world is watching…..





angela cracks me up. so over she came to help put this creation together – and really for a first attempt, i think we did a fine job.


we got a little skewer happy. the recipe said you could do it with 4, which is what we initially used for the major resting props. but then we broke off small pieces and just shoved them between the birds to keep them from actually touching. we were aiming for total clearance of about 1/4".



i used a 5 lb. duck and 16.5 lb. turkey and really, the original concept was quite simply to have a duck-basted turkey scenario. i stuffed the turkey with my dressing as per the recipe, stuffed the duck with a cut up orange, salted both birds and let them roast at about 340 for a little over an hour or so until they were pretty golden and then i tented the birds with some foil – dropped the temp to 250 to let the duck render its fat good and slow, and forgot about the whole deal until the oven beeped when the thermometer read 165. then cary removed it from the oven and when it was cooled we brought it over to angela’s.


the turkey was a ‘whole foods’ all natural bird and the duck was a ‘bell and evans’. the meat had stayed moist, and really – everything was about right. mission accomplished. but the best line… the most perfect statement made throughout this entire process was back to the moment when i asked ruhlman what he thought of this whole idea, and at the end of his tirade he just stopped and looked at me and said:

"this is why the french hate americans."


Tags: duck · turkey

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Meg // Nov 26, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Hee. You know, there are times it’s fun to get the French to hate us. It may be childish, and we may look like philistines, but… still fun (the British like to taunt them, too, so perhaps it’s a aEnglish-speaking cultural thing). I just posted about other food blogs; I should have included you and your space shuttle poultry.

  • 2 claudia // Nov 26, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    loved your post. and i keep rewriting this one! i publish the post and then edit… silly…

  • 3 Dan // Nov 27, 2007 at 7:03 am

    You made me not need coffee this morning, in a shockingly acceptable manner.

  • 4 lucy // Nov 27, 2007 at 7:24 am

    wow. i don’t even know what else to say. just…wow.

  • 5 Mary Coleman // Nov 27, 2007 at 7:26 am

    I’m speechless! Only you!

  • 6 Butta Buns // Nov 27, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Whoa! When I saw the picture from your Thanksgiving post, I just thought it was the reflection of the turkey on the oven ceiling. In some very strange way the shuttle birds remind me of that scene in Dirty Dancing where they’re practicing the life in the water.

    If the French hate us for something like this, I’d like to see them top it and your birds are one impossible act to follow.

  • 7 Melissa // Nov 27, 2007 at 10:46 am

    hm. the sight of those two glistening birds in such close proximity… let’s just say that my first thought was, wow, this brings a whole new meaning to the term “food porn.”

  • 8 claudia // Nov 27, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    dan – hmmm. i’m trying to figure that one out…

    yes everyone – i stayed away from sexual inuendo on this post… but it was hard not to go there!

    butta – i am too old to remember back that far… sad but true!

  • 9 TaratheFoodie // Nov 27, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Melissa – I was gonna say the same thing! haha…

    Claudia – what a creative way to cook your turkey and get a fabulous duck on the side as well. I’ve never seen anything like this. Soy muy impressed!

  • 10 J // Nov 27, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    C — I’ve been away too long from your blog, and what do I find when I return but poultry porn. I am amazed. And just a little titillated. Great job!
    As for the “hate the pastry” thing, I understand. I cheated and used frozen puff pastry to make apple/pear tarts with an apple brandy syrup drizzled on top. Taste-tested Granny Smith v. Cortland v. McIntosh, and decided Cortlands win and that a McIntosh apple really will break down into mush, just like they tell you.
    Thanks as always.

  • 11 melissa // Nov 27, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I’m with the other melissa, one of my first thoughts being it looked vaguely obscene hahahaha.

    NICE JOB!!!

  • 12 lcreekmo // Nov 27, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    You are my food hero. And I LOVE the comment about the French. Classic.

  • 13 Flora Rosefsky // Nov 27, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Your creativity continues to amaze and inspire me. A roasted duck with a roasted turkey – in good company…..innovative for sure, and I bet it tasted grand. What fun to begin new holiday traditions! Grandma Julia would be very proud of you for your culinary gifts in not only with preparing great food but with what also comes through with your witty writing.
    Aunt Flora

  • 14 FireDog // Nov 27, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    You know birds DO-IT in the air about 1/4 inch from each other.
    Thanks for being YOU!!

  • 15 Ann // Nov 28, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I love this and the pictures speak volumes.
    Next year, add a chicken for a three-part tur-duck-en.

  • 16 lisa // Nov 29, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Yeah… good luck stacking THAT in an oven!

  • 17 Peter // Nov 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Nearly One Year Later:

    I am grateful to Claudia for executing my recipe so nicely – and for all the world to see.

    It started for me some 2o years ago when I was informed at 10:00pm Wednesday that we had four (4) more guests for Thanksgiving, the turkey was thawed and ready to go, a larger bird was not in the cards. Earlier that day, I had seen news coverage of the Space Shuttle being transported from its landing site in California back to Florida ( )

    And there you have it.

    Thanks again, Claudia!

    Peter Wieck

  • 18 cook eat FRET - venison with cherry mostarda and chanterelles // Nov 26, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    [...] with me. after all, i cook quite a bit. so i’m more than happy to relinquish control. plus, last year was quite the [...]

  • 19 krysta // Nov 26, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    that is so cool…

    “and i had myself a little smile. because for better or worse – it was just me, being me.”

    i totally get it… my family is the same with with me they don’t understand that some things just make me happy!

  • 20 chefectomy // Nov 29, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    Just laughing, nothing to say…

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