Happy Fangsgiving my minions! Another feast day has come and gone and I thought I’d share with you all the beast that graced the table this year. As you may remember, in past years we’ve managed to bag a chestburster as well as a facehugger and I knew this year would have to be just as epic.
Some of you may know that my absolute favorite movie of all times is Tremors. It’s just such a campy classic and it makes my black little heart so happy, and so I knew without a doubt that I’d have to pay some sort of homage to that film with this year’s Fangsgiving feast. Of course, the most obvious choice would be to make a Graboid, but after looking at a few of the other monster options online, I just kept coming back to the Shrieker. There was just…something…about it that made me want to give it a try.
On top of that, the entire family had left me alone for the holiday season (ruin enough Thanksgivings in a row with scary food and they’ll stop insisting you come with them to family gatherings!) which meant that I was free to give this monstrosity a serious try.
The first thing I needed was ingredients, so it was off to the grocery store!
After spending some time really looking at the Shrieker’s online, I figured I’d be able to get away with a turkey and a chicken jammed together in some foul fowl hybrid. Because it’s just me for this holiday feast, I decided to go on the smaller side with my birds and managed to snag an 8.5lb turkey and a 6.9lb chicken for a total of just under 15 1/2 lbs of bird.
I decided to brine both of the birds in a slow 48-hour process that I swear makes the meat so flavorful and juicy! This is a recipe I’ve adapted from one I pulled off online from Epicurious.com and I have to say, it’s one of my absolute favorites!
To make the brine you will need:
- 4 quarts apple cider, divided
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
- 1/4 cup allspice
- 8 bay leaves
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 3 oranges worth of peels
- 4 quarts cold water
- Bag of ice
In a pot on your stove, bring 1 quart of your apple cider to a simmer. Add in the salt, allspice, bay leaves, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and the orange peels. Stir constantly until all the salt and sugar is completely dissolved and your orange peels start to soften.
Transfer this magical mixture to a container that’s large enough to not only hold all 4 quarts of the brining liquid but also both your birds. I opted for a cooler that I’ve used for the past few years (and yes, I make sure to prewash it with boiling water and bleach each time just in case.)
Pour your hot brine into your container and add in your remaining 3 quarts of apple cider and allow the entire mixture to cool completely before adding in your birds and your ice (make sure you check both your chicken and your turkey for the giblet bags they sometimes include. If yours comes with those, pull them out before brining and pop them into the fridge. We’ll use them to make gravy later!)
For food safety reasons, you want to make sure that the temperature of your brine remains under 40F/4C but doesn’t drop below freezing. Because it’s cold in Idaho where I am right now (it’s been about 45F all week) I felt comfortable sealing up my cooler and leaving it on the back porch (we raccoon proofed it with bungee cords and then slid it under a heavy iron bench just in case).
Open your cooler about every 6 hours to flip your birds, stir up your brine, and to check your temperature. I left mine in the brine for 36 hours and had almost as much ice in there as I did when I first poured it all in (You also don’t want your brine temperatures to get so warm that it melts the ice and dilutes the mixture. I like to keep mine around 35F).
At the 36 hour mark pull your birds out, rinse them off in the sink, pat them dry and then transfer them to a paper towel lined baking tray. Store your birds uncovered in the fridge for an additional 12 hours.
Now that your birds are brined, rinsed and dried, it’s time to start turning them into Shriekers.
For this you will need:
- 1 turkey thawed and brined
- Bag of turkey giblets (usually found inside your turkey)
- 1 chicken thawed and brined
- 4 cups chicken broth, divided
- 6 cups water, divided
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 egg whites, beaten
- 4 cups salt
- 8 cups of flour plus additional for dusting
- 4 sage leaves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Brown food coloring
- Yellow food coloring
- Red food coloring
- Black food coloring
- Food safe paintbrush
- Spray bottle of vodka
- Prosciutto ham
Start by pre-heating your oven to 325F/162C.
While your oven is preheating, put a pot on your stove and add 2 cups of chicken broth to 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Add in your sage leaves. This is our gravy pot. We’ll be adding to it as we go.
The first thing I did was remove the wings of both my turkey and my chicken (pop those into your gravy pot and simmer).
To create the inverted drumstick look of the Shrieker, I ended up having to disarticulate the leg bones of the turkey. I used an incredibly sharp knife and carefully cut into the back end of the turkey by going through the bottom and side, separating both the femur and the tibiotarsus (drumstick).
I removed both of the femurs but left the drumsticks in place (again, toss those femur bones into your gravy pot.) Pull the drumstick almost completely out of the bird but not all the way. You just want to separate it from the skin along the bulk of the meat but still leave it attached enough at the base that it’s still a part of the bird.
To create the exaggerated vertical drumstick look of the Shrieker, you’ll need to reposition your free-floating drumsticks almost completely vertically to your bird. Make sure your bird is breast up and that the legs are alongside it at a 90-degree angle.
Because this is obviously not a natural position for your turkey legs, they’re going to want to flop back. To help keep them in place I ended up trussing them with a length of cotton twine, running it under the back of the turkey to help hold them in place.
Now it’s time to tackle the chicken. We’ve already removed the wings so at this point all we need to do is truss the legs together so they tuck under the body.
Once both birds are prepped, it’s time to move onto creating the body of your Shrieker. My turkey came with a more than generous amount of neck skin which I loosened up with my knife, creating a sort of skin drape (Seriously, there are times when I write things in this blog and just kinda go “Okay, that’s not a phrase I thought I’d ever be using, but here we are…)
Tuck your chicken head first into the neck cavity of your turkey. For this your chicken will be breast down and your turkey will be breast up. It’s going to be a tight fit, so if you need to trim either down with your knife, go for it. Just make sure you save any scraps of meat you carve off for your gravy pot.
Once you get your chicken positioned, wrap your turkey skin drape around it and secure it into place using toothpicks. Congrats, you now have a turchicken.
Transfer this fowl monstrosity to your roasting pan and slather it generously with your 1/4 cup of butter. Personally, I love to use copious amounts of butter. I like to rub an ungodly amount under the skin of both birds as well.
Pour about 2 cups of chicken broth into the bottom of your pan and pop the whole thing into the oven. You’ll want to cook your birds according to their weight with the average being about 20 minutes per pound of weight. Keep an eye on them as they cook, especially the tops of the turkey legs. Because we’ve flipped them up, they’ll have a tendency to brown quickly. I popped some tin foil on them once they were nice and golden to keep them from getting too toasty.
Baste your turchicken every 20 minutes or so using the pan juices.
While your turchicken is cooking, we’ll need to make the bread dough we’ll be using for the head. The recipe I used is for a salt dough which, although you could eat it if you really wanted to, is basically a bakeable playdough made of salt and flour and hardens to an almost bone-like consistency. It’s also yeast free (hence the nickname ‘dead bread’) which means it won’t rise while you cook it which is excellent. Using a yeast-based dough will give you an edible product, but you run the risk of losing details as your bread puffs up as it cooks.
To make your ‘dead bread’ salt dough you’ll need the following ingredients from our list from above:
- 4 egg whites, beaten
- 4 cups salt
- 4 cups water
- 8 cups of flour plus additional for dusting
In a large mixing bowl, combine your egg whites with your salt and water and mix using a dough hook. Slowly add your flour, one cup at a time until it’s all added in. You’ll end up with a thick, sticky dough.
Turn this out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
To create the skull of my Shrieker, I balled up tin foil to use as a base and started building my dough up around that.
I taped tons of photos of Shriekers all over my cupboards to use as reference photos.
Once I was happy with how my skull looked, I popped it into the lower oven (set at 350F/175C) and let it cook for 30 minutes.
At the 30 minute mark, I pulled the skull out, removed the tinfoil substructure and returned it to the oven to continue cooking for an additional 45 minutes.
By now my turchicken had been in the oven for about 2 hours and it was time to work on the legs. I pulled it out and quickly slapped more salt dough alongside it for a size check.
Once I was satisfied with how the legs were sizewise in comparison to the turchicken, I removed the salt dough legs and put the turchicken back into the oven to keep cooking.
I transferred the legs to a silpat lined tray and kept working on them until I was happy with how they looked and then put them in the oven at 350F to cook completely.
To create the jaws of the Shrieker, I simply repeated my salt dough process and then baked them until they were cooked as well.
By now my turchicken was done cooking and it was time to start pulling everything together.
Because I still had a few steps left to do before assembling, I pulled the turchicken out of the oven and transferred him to his serving tray and covered him with tinfoil, allowing him to rest while I finished up everything else.
Take the pan juices from your turchicken roasting pan and add that to your gravy pot. By now your gravy pot should be full of delicious bits of meat and goodies. Fish out anything that has a bone in it and carefully pull the bones out and remove them. Puree the meat and sage leaves altogether and return the mixture to your gravy pot. At this point it’s probably still too thin to really qualify as gravy. Slowly whisk in your heavy cream and cornstarch and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes. As it cooks, it will thicken.
While your gravy is simmering and your turchicken is resting, it’s time to paint your Shrieker bread bits.
I used a mixture of brown, yellow and red food coloring to really get the colors of my baked dead bread to match the Shrieker reference images I’d been using. For the tonails I used straight black foodcoloring. To help do a wash treatment, I spritzed the baked dead bread with vodka to dilute my colors. Because the dead bread is still hot, the vodka quickly evaporates and doesn’t make your bread soggy, but stays liquid just long enough to really give me the effects I wanted.
Time to start assembling for final presentation!
I transferred my rested but still piping hot turchicken to the tray I planned on using for my final presentation. Make sure your tray is big enough. Even without the dead bread additions, this monster is already about 2 feet long and 16 lbs. Don’t forget to remove your turkey neck skin drape toothpicks before serving!
I sprinkled some decorative greens around it (spinach and the like, no romaine, I promise) and then positioned the legs.
To help hide the point where the dead bread meets the turchicken, I tucked in a roll of prosciutto and repeated the process on the other side.
Finally it was time to position the head and jaws and my Shrieker was officially done and ready to serve!
This badass mamajama of turchicken shrieker beauty stretches out almost three feet and comes in at a whopping 25 lbs!
I mean, just look at that monstrosity!
Serve this beast up with a healthy dose of your gravy and all the sides your stomach can hold.
Happy Fangsgiving my minions and bone appetite!