I am not much of a cook, chef, or baker. For this reason particularly, I love to take on recipes and food challenges that are far beyond my abilities. I hope for some success, some folly, and something edible. Thanksgiving has become an annual tradition for me trying something new and well beyond my skill level:
2014 – The Turducken
2015 – Slow smoked turkey over wood chips (in a gas grill)
2016 – Cranberry chutney glazed turkey
I have never topped my first year experiment, the turducken. I probably never will. But I really tried this year, with a piecaken.
The word “Piecaken” is play on “turducken,” which is a TURkey encasing a DUCK, encasing a chickEN (in case you didn’t know). So a “piecaken” is PIE encased by a CAKE, with no “N” to speak of (more on that later).
Piecaken layers can by laid atop one another to create a tiered dessert – in varying combinations. Some common ones I saw on the internet were: Apple pie inside of white cake, atop cherry pie inside of chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Also, in honor of Thanksgiving, there’s pumpkin pie inside of a spice cake, atop a pecan pie inside of a carrot cake, with cream cheese frosting.
As to increase the challenge and recklessness of my plan, I committed to attempting a triple-layer piecaken. If any layer failed, I could fall back on a double layer or less. I also decided to go for my own combination, rather than following an established recipe. At first, I was going to build on the above noted Thanksgiving version (pumpkin, pecan, etc.), but my family doesn’t love those pies and I do want to please my audience. Then I considered a mash up of everyone’s favorites – peanut butter pie, chocolate pie, and cheesecake (really a pie) all inside a yellow cake. But a bit of research confirmed that you need to stay away from creamy style pies as they will not bake in correctly.
Of course, with so many different kinds of pies and cakes, the options are seemingly endless. I started this project, just in my own mind putting the various options together. I went through the combinations – cherry, apple, pecan, lemon pies…red velvet, white, yellow, chocolate cakes. Nothing seemed interesting enough.
Then I had an inspiration. I didn’t have to make my piecaken a dessert. I could continue the turkey tradition in piecaken style.
(as a side note, the word “piecaken” doesn’t even make sense – what’s the “en” even supposed to be? It’s a leftover from the “chicken” in its inspiration word “turducken”. A traditional piecaken doesn’t have any “en” in it as there is no “chickEN.” So my piecaken could do without “cake,” if I infuse some chickEN back into it).
Behold the Hungry Dads Turducken Piecaken…
- Layer #1 – chicken and vegetable pot pie atop classic pie crust
- Layer #2 – turkey and cranberry pot pie inside of a cornbread “cake” layer
- Layer #3 – duck and potato pot pie atop a biscuit “cake” layer
Each layer was only six inches, I wanted to invent and slather on some “gravy frosting,” or even a nice layer of butter coating the exterior. But Mrs. Gallon wouldn’t have it, so gravy is on the side. Mostly for aesthetic purposes, I covered the outer permimeter in filo dough, which made this thing extra classy.
I love a challenge, but I decided increase my chances of success by using certain premade materials and focus on assembly: a store-bought rotisserie chicken, a smoked duck breast, easy-bake biscuits, boxed cornbread mix. If I tried to make everything from scratch, I would need to take about three weeks off of work – and I would easily screw up more than succeed. But if I started with determinatively decent tasting premade ingredients, even if it looks like a dumpster fire, it should at least taste okay. I do have to feed this to people on Thanksgiving after all. And since I couldn’t dedicate several days to this, I relied on the simplest looking recipes I could find with a simple internet search. Except for the cranberry turkey pot pie – I made that from total scratch with fresh ingredients and it was easily the most delicious part.
Everything but the filo dough got cooked by its own recipe/directions first and then cooled before assembly. After assembly I put it in the oven to warm up (maybe 325 degrees for 30 minutes or so?)
(note: you’ll see popovers in some photos. I had considred using popovers as a layer, but found that they were not needed and may compromise the structure. Plus there was more than enough starch in this thing.)
Like the turducken before it, this thing looked better than it tasted. And it was more fun to make than it was to eat. It wasn’t bad at all. Not at all. It tasted good. But each element would have tasted better on its own. The flavors melded fine, but it wasn’t a natural fit.
Turkey Cranberry Pot Pie courtesy of:
Duck Confit and Mashed Potato Pie adapted from:
Chicken Pot Pie courtesy of: