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Thanksgiving Recipes for Game and Russian Dolls Roast

Patty collects recipes and gadgets from the past and is particularly interested in early American history and all Indigenous Peoples.


The Meats and Fruits of Thanksgiving

North America is like a huge fertile field, producing hundreds of fruits, vegetables, and domestic and game animals in several months of harvests. This permits us numerable combinations for cooking.

While many North Americans have enjoyed ham steak with raisin sauce or a roast pig and apples, fewer have experienced the flavorful artistry of other meats and fowl when combined with various fruits.

North America is also home to a diverse mix of cooking cultures, from French Haute Cuisine to New Orleans Cajun, from Flori-Mex to Inuit Bush Cooking, and many more in between. Con-carne, vegetarian, lacto-ovo, and vegan styles all permeate our kitchens. We have many choices in a flavor rainbow.

A rump roast can be prepared from beef or any one of several different domestic and game meat sources.

High Bush Moose and Low Bush Moose

In the popular literature of Alaska and in certain kitchens, chefs and cooks refer to various game meats with certain nicknames.

For example, high bush moose is the actual moose, hunted in season (like caribou) to supply families with meat all winter in Alaska and proximal parts of Canada. This is big game and as such, this type of meat appears in larger quantities in the First Nations food pyramid than in other nutritional schemes prepared by the Canadian national government's health agency. These First Nations are hunters and fishers of long-standing.

At the other end of game meats, low bush moose is actually the snowshoe rabbit, polar rabbit or Arctic hare. This is a large rabbit-like creature trapped in quantity to provide food for the winter to families without access to larger game. In northern cuisine circles, one often hears people talking of becoming sick of the taste of rabbit in the winter.

Low bush moose (aka Arctic hare)

Low bush moose (aka Arctic hare)

Interestingly, the Alaskan bush is not in the far interior or northern extremes of the state, like ANWR in the northwest.

Major cities of the Alaskan bush trail northward up the west coast and are largely not set on roadways (please see map below).

This area is difficult to travel except by ice road truckers, and supplies are sometimes obstructed by blizzards. Thus, the residents often hunt and fish for their own food.

Many communities of Inuit people and related groups live in the bush and upwards into Canada, although erosion and rising sea levels are forcing some to move farther inland. Nevertheless, the land and sea provide a large portion of their food and their economy.

Moose Rump Roast With Fruits

One does not find many cattle or pigs in Alaska, but moose (or caribou) rump roast is a grand dish in this area, prepared with fruits in the recipe below.

The recipe reminds me of two things:

  1. Opening credits for TV's Northern Exposure, which featured a moose from the Columbus, Ohio, Zoo.
  2. A wonderful children's book called If You Give a Moose a Muffin, by Numeroff and Bond.

If you have hunted or been gifted with meat from a moose, caribou, or deer—even a beef or pork roast—then try the following recipe. Chicken and turkey do not seem to me to be tasty in this dish, but duck and goose work well.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

2 hours 40 min

3 hours

Several servings (enough for a large family)


  • 1 (4-pound) roast of game or domestic meat
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine or wine vinegar
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into thick rings
  • 3 large pears, peeled, cored and cut into thick rings
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, soaked in a cup of hot water a few minutes to plump
  • 1/4 cup dark raisins


  1. Over medium heat, melt butter into olive oil in a heavy, deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven and brown the roast on all sides.
  2. Remove roast to a holding plate and brown the onions. Add the wine or vinegar, tomato paste, seasonings, stock and bay leaves.
  3. Add the roast back to the skillet or Dutch oven, cover, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 60 minutes.
  4. Remove from the stovetop, turn off burner, and transfer Dutch oven or cast iron skillet into the oven at 350°F for 90 minutes or until meat is tender. Keep an eye on the roast and add some water if the pan begins to dry.
  5. Remove cooking vessel from oven and return to stove top over medium-low heat.
  6. Add the fruits carefully and cook for 10 minutes uncovered until apples and pears are soft.
  7. Remove finished dish to a serving platter and care in the kitchen or at the table.
  8. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.
Traditional Russian doll set, also called the Matryoshka dolls. The culinary version is one of birds-inside-of-birds.

Traditional Russian doll set, also called the Matryoshka dolls. The culinary version is one of birds-inside-of-birds.

Game Birds and a Russian Doll Roast

A haute cuisine dish that appears in English and French cookery books of the 1700s and in an old WiIlkie Collins novel is echoed in the Chef's Mystery Series by Michael Bond, the author of the beloved Paddington Bear children's books.

Some children's authors dabbled very well in mystery, including Mr. Bond (still writing in his 80s) and Winnie the Pooh's creator, A.A. Milne (in his The Tale of the Red House). Milne wrote his only mystery for his father, and it's a good one. Bond wrote his mysteries for adults that enjoy humor and romance as well as crime scenes.

This dish of game birds is called by a few names: "impossible" is one of them and "fanciful" is another. One version of the original recipe calls for as many as 20 game birds of increasing proportions stuffed one into the next, beginning with a small fowl just able to be fit with a stuffed olive in its gut.

A great bustard in a German drawing from 1905. Males weight up to 35 pounds +/-.

A great bustard in a German drawing from 1905. Males weight up to 35 pounds +/-.

The largest bird in the dish of birds-inside-birds was a great bustard, rather like a small ostrich, found formerly in England and now a threatened species in other parts of Europe. In fact, several of the birds in the original dish are now endangered or threatened, so fewer birds are used today.

This "Turducken x 6" is known also by the nickname Russian Dolls Roast and requires up to 18 hours cooking time of roasting and stewing. De-boning all the birds first is often suggested. A simpler dish with fewer birds is tasty and elegant, served at Thanksgiving and Christmas by those aware of it.

The Russian Dolls Roast or turducken

The Russian Dolls Roast or turducken

In France, Turducken Is Roast a L'Imperatrice

Roast a l'imperatrice (roast fit for an empress) is the name given to the multi-bird dish described by M. Aristide Pamplemousse in Michael Bond's humorous murder mystery Monsieur Pamplemousse Rests His Case.

A former member of the Parisian Surete forced into early retirement by 15 chorus girls, Aristide is now an inspector for a travel guide and specializes in French cuisine. In this book, he is confronted with the dish nicknamed also Trojan roast pig and dared to eat the olive, which is poisoned. All this occurs at a banquet of American mystery writers in Vichy and many diners dressed as Alexandre Dumas characters. Aristide is a hilarious D'Artagnion. You must read the book and enjoy his misadventures.

This recipe is adapted from Dictionary of Cuisine, by Alexandre Dumas, published in 1873.


  • 1 large pitted green olive
  • 1 anchovy
  • 1 lark (May be illegal to consume in some countries. If so, replace with some tasty slices of Prosciutto. Or move ahead and use a duck between the partridge and pheasant.)
  • 1 quail
  • 1 partridge
  • 1 pheasant
  • 1 turkey
  • Oysters - possible (see instructions)
  • 4 cups chicken stock


  1. Stuff the anchovy into the olive.
  2. Wash and debone all the birds (except the lark; you eat those bones) and season with a little salt and pepper. Add additional seasonings of your choice, depending on the bird and include some oysters around one of the larger birds as well, if you wish.
  3. Stuff in this order: olive, lark, quail, partridge, pheasant, turkey.
  4. Place final assemblage into a Dutch oven, add stock, cover, and roast in a slow oven, basting frequently, until meat thermometer inserted into center reads 165°F.
  5. Serve.

NOTE: The joke in the literature is that the gourmand throws away the cooked fowl and eats only the olive.

Original Ingredients

These are the original ingredients, from smallest to largest, like many Russian Dolls placed one into another:

  • 1 large olive stuffed with capers and a spice clove or with a garlic clove or with an anchovy
  • 1 bec-figue (figpicker bird)
  • 1 ortolan (a species of lark)
  • 1 common lark (some modern recipes suggest a canary), wrapped in vine-leaves (likely grape leaves)
  • 1 thrush
  • 1 fat quail, wrapped in bacon
  • 1 plover
  • 1 lapwing
  • 1 partridge
  • 1 woodcock
  • 1 barded teal (some sources translate as "tame duck")
  • 1 guinea-fowl, garnished with bacon
  • 1 large duck
  • 1 fat chicken
  • 1 large pheasant
  • 1 goose
  • 1 large turkey
  • 1 giant great bustard (However, in ancient Rome, all the rest was stuffed into a pig. Hence the name "Trojan pig." The dish was once outlawed for extravagance in the Roman Empire.)

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS