The ‘Roast Without Equal’ That Puts Turduckens to Shame

Nothing exemplifies American culinary excess quite like the turducken. Made popular by NFL announcer John Madden, the turducken features a turkey stuffed with a duck, which in turn has been stuffed with a chicken – a poultry trifecta, if you will. As impressive/disgusting as this dish might seem, it doesn’t hold a candle to the aptly named  (‘roast without equal’), which was devised more than 200 years ago by a French food author named Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de La Reynière.

M. Grimod first found success as a lawyer and theater critic, but it was his lavish dinner parties (owing to a generous inheritance from his late father) that earned him widespread fame. He also published some of the first known works on the subject of gastronomy, in which he wholeheartedly condoned gluttony in all its greasy-fingered glory. And it was in his Almanach des gourmands that the recipe for rôti sans pareil first appeared.

You might wonder how this ‘roast without equal’ could possibly rival the turducken. What, did it include four birds? Five? Nope. Try 17.

According to the original recipe, the outermost bird was a bustard – a large, terrestrial bird that once roamed the European countryside in abundant number and could weigh up to 40 pounds. The bustard was stuffed with (in descending order) a turkey, chicken, duck, guinea fowl, teal, woodcock, partridge, plover, lapwing, quail, thrush, lark, ortolan bunting and, finally, a warbler, which is roughly the size and weight of a golf ball. It should come as no surprise that there was little room for stuffing, veggie garnishes or other, non-bird ingredients. We can only speculate on the epicness of post-meal naps following one of M. Grimod’s little soirees.

Those who wish to recreate rôti sans pareil in all its glory will run into a major snag: several species included in the original recipe (including the bustard) are today classified as endangered. Not to mention that you would require a really, really big oven to thoroughly cook the roast.

Whether you’re planning to dine on turkey, duck, chicken or any combination thereof, have a happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Wenger Blog!

By Brad Nehring