Fr. Herb Schneider’s love of cooking flourished when he joined the Jesuit order in 1957.
He recounted how their summer breaks were spent organizing ethnic meals. He being German, the task of preparing a German meal became his alone.
Father Schneider recalled, “In a way, that was my baptism of fire, having to prepare food for about 50 people. What helped was my grandmother’s (Franziska Mausner) cookbook from the early 20th century.”
His next kitchen stint was in graduate school, as part of a small community of four Jesuits.
He remembered breakfast and supper as simple affairs— they ate mostly what they found in the refrigerator. Lunch was their main meal.
“My Jesuit confreres were not very good in getting a meal on the table so I offered to do the cooking if they were to handle the shopping and washing of dishes. This was a win-win all around and I became the cook of the little community.”
He and the other priests would come home from the university at around 11:30 a.m. The food had to be on the stove in 30 minutes.
At noon, they would celebrate mass, then have their main meal together. As the others cleaned up, he would prepare coffee and they would sit around and talk about how their day was. Done with the meal, they would go back to work.
Father Schneider first came to the Philippines for Philosophy Studies in 1961 at Berchmans College in Cebu. Three years later, he moved to Manila and taught at the Ateneo de Manila High School.
In 1967, he left for graduate studies in Scripture at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. He came back to Manila in 1974 and began teaching at the Loyola School of Theology.
Since then he has found more time to prepare meals for friends and the Jesuit community.
“I enjoy organizing dinner. It has always been a good change after having too many papers to correct or classes to prepare for. I am not a creative cook, but I know how to find and follow recipes and not always, but most often, these have turned into good eats.”
One of the dishes he loves to prepare is Turducken.
In 1992, he came across an article in the South China Morning Post about a spectacular turkey dish that originated in the 17th century.
Turducken is a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck that is then stuffed into a deboned turkey.
Father Schneider has always been drawn to recipes that are a bit out of the ordinary, medieval, or from an earlier time.
Turducken became popular when US delis began selling it.
Father Schneider has prepared Turducken a few times for small groups, but he said, “the primary ingredient of a wonderful Christmas dinner is not the food, but that those around the dinner table share a gratefulness and love for God, who sent his Son into the world as our Savior (John 3:16-17).”
Recipe for Turducken
The recipe comes from Annabel Graham, the Sunday Times Amateur Chef of 1992. It is an adaptation of a recipe in John Farley’s 1783 Cookbook The London Art of Eating.
The procedure is written as Father Schneider cooks it.
150 g Farmer’s Ham, cut ham into 1-inch cubes
1 turkey 4 kg
1 duck 2.5 kg
1 chicken 1.5 kg
salt, pepper, thyme, butter
For the chestnut stuffing:
½ kg peeled and ready to eat chestnuts
liver of turkey
2 large white onions, finely chopped
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. corn oil or grapeseed oil
½ tsp dried thyme or mixed herbs
2 tsp chopped parsley
grated zest of one orange
1 c fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
2 eggs beaten
Debone the three birds by cutting along the backbone so the birds open up flat.
For the turkey, discard up to and including the second wing joint. Remove the thigh bones, but keep the drumsticks intact.
For the duck and the chicken, discard the entire wing without deboning. Cut away some of the excess fat and skin from the duck and chicken.
Preparing the stuffing
Chop the peeled ready-to-eat chestnuts finely.
Sauté the livers in little oil. Remove from the pan and roughly chop.
In the same pan, sauté the onion, celery and garlic in some more oil if needed until soft and golden. This should take about ½ hour.
Add the chestnuts, herbs, orange peel and breadcrumbs, liver, salt and pepper to the mixture and cook for another few minutes.
Allow to cool and then stir in the beaten eggs. The mixture should be a sticky mass.
Putting it together
Lay the turkey skin-side down on a work surface.
With a rolling pin, pound the breast meat to flatten it a little and increase the surface area of the bird. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
Lay the duck over the turkey skin side down and season again with some salt, pepper, and thyme
Put the chicken on top. Again, season lightly with salt, pepper, and thyme.
Put half of the stuffing down the center on top of the chicken, top with the ham cubes and cover with the rest of the stuffing.
Fold the chicken over the stuffing, the duck over the chicken, and the turkey around everything. Holding it together with large safety pins will make things much easier.
Sew the seam up with kitchen twine and a large needle.
Remove the pins.
Truss the bird with string so it will hold its shape during roasting.
Brush the bird generously with butter or oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme.
Place in roasting pan and roast for three hours at 350 degree fahrenheit.
Baste every 20 minutes with butter and later with pan juices.
After the first hour the skin will be quite brown, cover with tin foil and continue roasting and basting.
After it is done, let it sit for about ½ hour.
Serve with giblet gravy, cranberries and your favorite vegetables