I don’t know when exactly, but at some point in the last 12 years, I discovered the word “turducken.”
“Tur-what?” I remember asking.
“Turducken,” GB replied. “Turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken.”
“You debone and stuff one into the other from smallest to largest, and when you cut through, you get a little of each. Sometimes the chicken is stuffed with andouille.”
Wow. What a concept! It reminded me of those German stacking dolls: big doll covers medium, medium doll covers small, small doll covers delicious sausage stuffing. I liked the novelty of it, and was all for the idea of serving turducken—until I spotted one several weeks later in a Williams Sonoma catalog. According to page 36, I could purchase my very own turducken for $150.00. Or, according to Paula Deen, I could spend five hours preparing one.
Too much money. Too much work. We stuck with ham that year, because ham is easy.
“My parents can join us for New Year’s,” GB says.
“Oh, that’s good,” I say, looking up from my laptop. “It’s nice of them to make the drive.”
“I’m thinking about baking a Maryland stuffed ham for them,” he continues. “We haven’t had one since Mom made that one 10 years ago. Remember?”
I do remember. (GB’s family lives in Kentucky now, but they’re from the Chesapeake Bay area. There are a few recipes in his family tree that have special meaning, and this is one of them.) A decade ago, I watched my husband and mother-in-law chop more greens than I’d ever seen in one kitchen, then don a pair of surgical gloves each and just start stuffing. It took hours. I chuckled at their methodical focus. With the gloves, they looked like heart surgeons running a transplant.
I’d like to see that again for the sheer entertainment value. So I nod. “A ham would be great,” I say.
GB starts chopping the greens at noon on New Year’s eve. I’m working from home, so I set up shop in the kitchen and watch his progress between my rigorous editorial reviews. He tackles eight lbs. of kale and two medium cabbages before moving on to 12 bunches of watercress, 12 bunches of green onions and one bunch of celery.
An hour and a half later, he has chopped enough greens to fill a garbage bag. I know this because we don’t have a bowl large enough to hold it all. (Who would?) He boils everything down, and then pulls on the surgical gloves.
By the time he finishes stuffing, it’s 4 PM. The ham is so large, and will need to cook so long, he wraps it in a clean t-shirt to hold it together and keep it from burning.
When he finally slides it from the oven at 10 PM, it looks like this.
He carves a sample and hands it to his mother. She takes a bite and nods approvingly. “Damn that ham,” she says with bewildered appreciation. In 15 years, it’s the first time I’ve ever heard her swear.
It’s a pretty dish. You serve it cold.
In St. Mary’s county, where the recipe began, it’s considered a delicacy. You’ll fork over more than $200 for one of these babies.
It’s the kind of dish you make every decade or so.
My side dishes take one hour to prep and bake. When I place them next to my husband’s work of art, I feel like a slacker.
GB’s mom and dad eat with smiles on their faces. I’m sure they never thought they’d find such a nostalgic bit of home in the suburbs of Columbus, OH. As for GB, I think there’s something sweet about a son who will spend 10 hours on a ham, just to make his parents happy.
But that’s GB for you: thoughtful stuffed with generous stuffed with sweet. A bit like a turducken, actually.
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