Talking Turkey (Sort Of)
Take a chicken. Bone it. Stuff it with cornbread stuffing. Slather it with Cajun sausage, or maybe crawfish etouffee. Take a duck. Bone it. Stuff it with the chicken. Slather the duck with the sausage or the etouffee. Take a turkey. Bone it. Cram the duck that's been crammed with the chicken into its cavity. Sew it all up. Bake. Carve. Eat. Create a trend.

As it happens, that's exactly what the folks around Maurice, Louisiana, have been doing for the last decade or so. Okay, so maybe they haven't been creating a trend all that time -- until recently, the fowl dish described above, known as a turducken (turkey, duck, chicken -- get it?) hadn't moved much beyond its point of origin. For the most part, it's the locals who have swarmed butcher shops such as Hebert's Specialty Meats in Maurice for a holiday curiosity that's all but overshadowed the Cajun creation more familiar to Houstonians, the fried turkey.

But word of mouth -- or taste -- and a little publicity boost from a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal has put the turducken in the spotlight. So, for that matter, has the opening of a pair of Louisiana-native run shops in Houston, La Boucherie and Cajun Stuff. La Boucherie, started about two years ago on FM 1960 by Abbeville-bred ex-oilman Royce Hollier, was the first to offer freshly made turduckens in Houston, which is about the farthest west the non-mail order version of the bird has spread. Cajun Stuff, run by a trio with ties to Maurice, began selling its turduckens in February, also on FM 1960, not too terribly far from La Boucherie's first location (it's since added a second near Rice Village). Though much of the business has come from Louisiana expatriates, the owners of both La Boucherie -- which last week had sold out of its turducken supply and was preparing another 300 for the following day -- and Cajun Stuff -- which has been making about 100 turduckens a day to meet demand -- say that curiosity driven non-Cajuns have been doing a lot of the buying.

A sample tasting gives some indication why. The stuffing/bird/coating flavors mix surprisingly well, with the potentially greasy duck adding juice to the potentially dry turkey. The chicken, frankly, gets a little lost. It's not cheap, around $55 for a ready-to-bake 15 pounder, but at least you're not paying for bone. What's next? Well, back in Maurice, the owner of Herbert's used a turducken to stuff a boneless pig. That particular dish hasn't yet crossed the Sabine. But next year, who knows?

La Boucherie, 3323-B FM 1960 W., (281) 583-8177, and 2531 Amherst (Village Arcade), 528-1477; Cajun Stuff, 5050


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