As the holidays approach, I know exactly what you’re thinking: “I really want a turducken this year, but I just don’t have the time to stuff one myself … or, well, even have the slightest idea how to start. Hell, outside of Cave Hill, I really don’t know where to get a duck, much less get the right size duck that’ll hold a Cornish hen … .”

Do most people even know what a turducken is? Despite the dish being centuries old, it was news to me until about 10 years ago. My young nephew spun what seemed like a yarn about his uncle preparing a hen stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, which he baked half a day and sliced at the table.

A turducken done by someone other than John Varanese. Search for yourself on the web: they pretty much all look like this one.

He was little enough to be fascinated with the “turd” part of the turducken name and cute enough to lure me into a bad joke, so I questioned him skeptically until his dad deemed the story true.

“I’ve got to say it was pretty good,” my brother-in-law added, “but I’m fine with just the turkey.”

That was good news since I’m usually the turkey cook for most family affairs, and I especially had no interest in a meat mélange on Thanksgiving morning, the pre-cooking hours when I and my in-laws are usually sipping mimosas in our pajamas.

Should you find yourself fond of such a three-birds-in-one meal and would rather babysit a mimosa instead of tackling your own turducken, you can call on John Varanese to do one for you for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s.

The chef-owner of Varanese restaurant (2106 Frankfort Ave.) sells about 30 “big birds” (three birds boned out and stuffed into one) and 25 “roulades” (only the boneless breast meat of each bird rolled and tied) each year.

He began his turducken training at Shelbyville’s Cardinal Club, where he was chef eight years ago. When he opened Varanese four years ago, a member of the club asked him to do a turducken for him. Word got out and look what happened.

To prep just one turducken takes Varanese less than 1 hour—and this is a guy who’s got the production process down. (In other words, allot about double the time if you dare try this knife skills exercise at home.)

He sells them fully stuffed and ready for baking, which takes 12 hours at 250 degrees. He also sells them fully baked, requiring customers to reheat the original “meatsa trio” for 2.5 hours.

“We’ve got it down to a system now, so we’re pretty good at making them,” Varanese said, adding that the effort is as much about marketing as making money. “It’s kind of tradition now, too.”

The turduckens come in two sizes: a 20 pounder for $140, which feeds 15 to 20 people; or a 26 pounder for $160, which feeds 25 to 30. The turducken roulade costs $10 per pound (4 pound minimum).

Want sides with that?

  • Mashed sweet potatoes cost $12 per quart
  • Sweet potato casserole costs $18 per quart
  • Mashed potatoes cost $12 per quart
  • Green beans cost $18
  • Gravy costs $8 per quart
  • Cranberry chutney costs $12 per quart.

All orders must be secured with a credit card.

Call 899-9904 to place your order.

Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.


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