Stuffing the Ballot(ine)
Hebert’s Specialty Meats has been wrapping deboned birds into the almighty turducken since 1985 (and Louisiana at large has had the concept kicking around since at least the late 1800s), but nested roasts have existed since Roman times. One doesn’t debone an animal and not think about how many other deboned animals could fit in there. I mean, there’d have to be something wrong with you not to think about that stitching up Frankenstein meat puppets every waking moment.
But sometimes…you want more. Sometimes you want to go beyond all reason. And that’s when you have to look in the dark corners of diet for what lies…BEYOND TURKEYDOME!
Ancient Romans document the earliest roasted chimera, a feast of beast that they called…(seriously, wait for it)…The TETRAPHARMACUM! The originally Greek name means “fourfold drug,” and refers to a nasty elixir they took to ease the pain of being so goddamn manly. But Epicurus used it more metaphorically to mean anything good for the soul. And of course, it being the guy whose philosophy was “Dodge pain and eat well,” it wasn’t long before this term fell upon an expensive meal. The dish packed sow’s udder, pheasant, wild boar, and ham into one delicious package, and then wrapped it all up in a pastry, predicated on the logic that there weren’t enough carbs, and the only solution was meat pie.
But if you don’t think that’s kosher enough, consider their pure roast: “a hard-boiled egg, inside a nightingale, inside a fish, inside a chicken, inside a duck, inside a peacock, inside a lamb, inside an ox,” all roasted with carefully selected woods to impart the right smoke. Man, can you imagine the fight over that egg?
In the 18th century, chef Hannah Glasse wrote The Art of Cookery, which included a recipe for Yorkshire Christmas Pie: “a turkey, a goose, a fowl, a partridge, and a pidgeon,” though even at its strictest definition, “fowl” is a pretty broad term. Also broad? This pie, which weighed maybe 80 lbs, because of course you’re going to need bread with all of that bird. But where do you find an oven big enough to accept an 80-lb pie?
Right after Hannah’s time, the famed hedonist Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière actually went seventeen birds deep: “a bustard stuffed with a turkey, a goose, a pheasant, a chicken, a duck, a guinea fowl, a teal, a woodcock, a partridge, a plover, a lapwing, a quail, a thrush, a lark, an ortolan bunting and a garden warbler,” this last stuffed with an olive. No word on whether the olive was stuffed with a pimento.
Of course, the last word in mega-ballotines belongs to Epic Meal Time. The famed vanquishers of bacon forever destroyed the concept by going just far enough past too far. Just to warn you — this is the kind of meal where Wendy’s Baconators are a mere garnish. Their Turbacon Epic Thanksgiving is a pig stuffed with layers of deboned turkey, duck, chicken, cornish hen, and quail. And then they made bacon-croissant stuffing, until a more buttery bread than croissants are invented.
But they weren’t done; they made “meat-glue” from bacon and veal-pork combo sausage. The glue was then applied between layers, and they paused halfway through to add another layer of bacon. They stitched it together in an edible Frankenstein and added more bacon. They put it in the pig, and stitched THAT shut, but not before filling the rest of pig-chamber with bacon stuffing. Then they smoked it, just in case there was a type of cancer they had gotten away from them. While it cooked, they glazed it with Dr. Pepper and butter. Then they draped the pig with bacon. And they invited a bunch of hot girls over to enjoy it with them. Beauty fades, but arterial plaque is forever!
Brendan McGinley is stuffed.
Remember when we got Epic Meal Time to issue a formal apology for depleting the world’s bacon supply? That was a swell affair. Or check out more food combos that should not exist (because we invented them).