Right after we got married, we moved from Mexico City to Dallas, Texas. It was in the middle of the very hot summer, oh how I remember that.
I had always been a great eater… but not a great cook. The youngest of four daughters, I had always been labeled the intellectual one, while each one of my older sisters jumped into the cooking and lifestyle field in one way or another.
Back then, I was focusing all my efforts on finishing my political science thesis to become an academic. But not knowing anyone, with my husband traveling all the time, and sort of locking myself in the duplex we lived in to write most of the time, I became insanely nostalgic for my family and the foods that we ate back home. So I jumped in the kitchen, and started to chat with anyone and everyone who seemed open to share recipes with me, in an attempt to recreate the soups, the stews, the dishes, and the nurturing flavors that I knew would help me feel at home.
Then came October. Like a sudden rain fall, I started seeing luscious Thanksgiving menu images everywhere: in stores, at the mall, on TV, on glossy books and cooking magazines in grocery stores. “A festive turkey meal in October,” I wondered. In Mexico, turkey is eaten for Christmas! “Oh boy,” I thought, “here they really do plan ahead of time.”
I had never heard of Thanksgiving before. Yet intrigued by the photos and recipes I was seeing, I made a full Thanksgiving meal for my husband and I. That was the very first one. Since then, we have sat down for a Thanksgiving meal every single year. Fast forward 19 years, and by now, I can tell you that Thanksgiving has become my favorite American holiday.
It is not only because of the food, but because of how friends and family come together around the table. How everyone seems to contribute in what is almost a communal effort. How the holiday is so timeless, with classic dishes that need to remain classics. But there is also an open window for flavors and ingredients that can enrich the meal.
Now, so many years later, I get the meaning of Thanksgiving more than ever. Here is my humble offer for your table: a turkey recipe packed with the sazón of some of my favorite flavor combinations and the tastiest Chorizo, Apple and Cornbread Stuffing.
Oh, by the way, for Season 5 of Pati’s Mexican Table, we made a Thanksgiving episode. I really do hope you catch it! Here is a clip.
You can also find out when the episode is playing in your location, by entering your zip code here.
For the marinade:
- 6 tablespoons achiote paste, from a bar
- 6 cups bitter orange juice or its substitute
- 6 cups homemade chicken broth, or store bought
- 12 cloves garlic charred, broiled or toasted, with the skin on, and then peeled
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
For the turkey:
- 1 16- to 18-pound turkey, rinsed and patted dry
- 4 whole red onions, peeled and sliced
- 8 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 to 3 banana leaves (optional)
- 1 brining bag large enough for a turkey, (or an extra-large plastic bag)
- Chorizo, Apple and Corn Bread Stuffing
To make the marinade:
- In a blender or food processor, working in 2 batches, add the achiote paste, bitter orange juice or its substitute, chicken broth, garlic, oregano, cumin, allspice, salt, and pepper and puree until smooth.
- Slide the turkey, with the breast side down, into the brining bag. Pour the marinade into the bag and massage it into the bird, working it into the cavity and all the crevasses. Place the bag in a mixing bowl or roasting pan and refrigerate for 12 to 48 hours, turning the turkey a couple of times to redistribute the marinade.
To make the turkey:
- Set the oven rack at the lowest position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spread the onions and tomatoes in a large roasting pan. Sit the turkey on the vegetables breast side up. Stuff the main cavity with as much stuffing as it can hold and place the rest in a buttered baking dish. Close the cavity by crossing and tying the legs with butcher’s twine. Tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Pour as much of the remaining marinade over the turkey as will fit halfway up the pan.
- Roast the turkey for 30 minutes. Cover the turkey with layers of banana leaves, if you are using them, and then cover the entire pan with aluminum foil, sealing it as best as you can. The less steam that is able to escape the better.
- Reduce the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place turkey back in the oven and roast for 3 1/2 hours, or for at least 12 minutes per pound. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the leaves and/or the foil, being careful as the steam is hot. Return to the oven and roast for 20 more minutes. The turkey should be completely cooked through and nearly falling off the bone.
- Remove turkey from the oven and let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes, loosely covered with the aluminum foil.
- Strain all the cooked vegetables and juice into a medium 3-quart saucepan, pressing with the back of the spoon to get as much liquid as possible. Set aside 1 cup for the stuffing. Simmer the remaining sauce for 15 to 20 minutes, until it has reduced by half.
- While the turkey rests, pour the reserved marinade over the stuffing in the baking dish and place it in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it is hot and the top is crisped.
- Carve the turkey and serve with the stufﬁng.