Louisiana gave turduckens, fried turkeys to the world. You're welcome
Louisiana didn't invent the turkey, but it did create the turducken and the deep fried version of the bird as culinary Thanksgiving Day gifts to the world.
Who invented the turducken?
Though the turducken's origins can be traced to the state, there is some question about whether a famous Louisiana chef or an Acadiana butcher invented the creation — a deboned chicken stuffed inside a deboned duck stuffed inside a mostly deboned turkey.
The late Louisiana Chef Paul Prudhomme laid claim to the turducken's creation and trademarked the name in 1986, serving it in his New Orleans K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen restaurant.
He featured the recipe in "The Prudhomme Family Cookbook: Old-Time Louisiana Recipes by the Eleven Prudhomme Brothers and Sisters and Chef Paul Prudhomme" in 1987.
In a 2008 CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, Prudhomme said of the turducken: “It’s one of those wonderful things that, when you serve it — whether it’s on Thanksgiving or any other holiday, or just a good regular Sunday with the family — people anticipate it because it’s unusual, it’s wonderful, it has a great taste. It has more than one flavor and those flavors match, so it really gives it a great wonderful celebration, I feel it.”
But brothers Junior and Sammy Hebert also lay claim to the turducken's invention at their original Hebert's Specialty Meats in Maurice.
The Heberts said they created the first turducken in 1984 when a farmer came into their butcher shop with a turkey, chicken and duck and asked they they be combined.
They also claimed to have invented the name despite Prudhomme's trademark.
Regardless of its inventor, the turducken's national fame escalated when retired NFL broadcaster John Madden made it a staple on his Thanksgiving Day broadcasts after first trying it at a New Orleans Saints game in 1997.
Glenn Mistich, owner of Gourmet Butcher Block in Gretna who has a family connection with the Heberts, delivered a turducken to Madden in the Superdome press box.
In a 2002 New York Times interviewMadden recalled his introduction to the Louisiana specialty.
“‘The P.R. guy for the Saints brought me one. And he brought it to the booth. It smelled and looked so good. I didn’t have any plates or silverware or anything, and I just started eating it with my hands,” Madden said.
Mistich has sent turduckens to Madden for Thanksgiving and Christmas ever since and bills his Gourmet Butcher Block shop as "Home of the All-Madden Turducken." He ships thousands all over the world every year.
Though the turducken comes from Louisiana, the method of engastration, cooking an animal inside of another animal, has been around since the Middle Ages.
The English prepare a gooducken in which the turkey is replaced with a goose.
Cajun deep-fried turkey
The process of deep frying whole turkeys got a foothold in southern Louisiana in the 1970s when people began realizing they could take their butane cookers used for crawfish boils, fill them with oil instead of water, and lower the birds into the bubbling vat.
Proponents claim fried turkey is more succulent than the traditional baked bird.
According to Serious Eats, the turning point in popularizing the specialty came in December 1982 when United Press International's Gary Taylor reported from a small town in southwestern Louisiana that "a few daring cooks have developed a new way to prepare holiday turkey. They deep fry it — whole."
The late Cajun Chef Justin Wilson deep-fried a whole turkey in 1986 on his "Louisiana Cookin'" PBS show. Wilson said he first saw someone fry a whole turkey in Louisiana in the 1930s.
Then, according to Serious Eats, "The real breakout moment for deep fried turkey seems to have occurred in October 1987, when the members of the Newspaper Food Editors and Writers Association descended upon New Orleans for their annual meeting" and were given a demo that "blew their minds."
There was initial resistance from the National Turkey Federation in Reston, Va., which issued a press release with the headline: "Deep-Fried Turkey!!! The Ultimate Insult to Wholesome Food."
But the federation eventually came around, now providing deep-fried turkey recipes on its website, calling fried turkey "a perfect twist for barbecues, block parties and holiday feasts."