Thanksgiving Dinner: The Cocktail

You know how the say Disney is the happiest place on earth? I think cocktail hour is the happiest hour of the day. I don’t want you to think of me as a drunken floozie, though I am, but I love a good cocktail and I wanted to bring one to the table for the Thanksgiving dinner.

I have to say I’ve been thinking about this long and hard. I wanted to stay away from cranberries, because I wanted the drink to be in a shade of orange rather than¬†red. I kept eyeing persimmons, but the price point is pretty high and I don’t even know what they taste like, do you? If you do, please share.

I also thought the drink should be flavorful, a nod to all the spices used throughout this holiday, but I wanted to keep it light. So, off I went to my local super liquor store and then I saw it. It was love at first sight.

Have you ever seen a prettier bottle? And filled with ginger goodness no less! I was in love for sure. The other components fell right into place and these cocktails are very special. Enjoy!

Apricot Gingersnap

2 ozs apricot juice
1-1/2 ozs spiced rum (Myer’s)
1 oz ginger liqueur
Ginger ale
Lime squeeze (optional)
Sugar to rim the glass

After you’ve rimmed the glasses with sugar, fill with ice before layering in the rest of the ingredients. Give it a stir and enjoy!

Salud! Check out the full photostream here and for the rest of the Thanksgiving meal, click this link.
Cookingly yours,


How to plan your Thanksgiving Dinner

I told you before I would make a pre-turkey day dinner for your benefit, but I lied. Don’t get me wrong, you do benefit from this, but I didn’t make this dinner just because of you. The truth is, I love turkey and would eat it year-round, so when this time of the year comes and the turkeys are plentiful… I eat and eat and, well, eat.

So, I set out to put together a Thanksgiving meal that spoke to my Latin roots while still honoring the traditional ingredients. With a little push from The Hubbz and an abandonment of safety nets, I came with what I believe is an incredible menu.

yep, that's the beginning of the menu

Pay attention, this is where you benefit: I’m about to share all of it with you! The menu. The thought process. The planning. The execution. I’m sharing it all with you in the hopes that you’ll be encouraged to recreate one or more of the dishes or that you’ll through caution to the wind and try something you’ve been thinking about for while.

The Thought Process:
Cocktails: I didn’t want anything too heavy or pumpkiny, but I still wanted to keep Thanksgiving colors in mind. I knew it needed to be spicy/flavorful.

Appetizer: I went for a soup, but wanted to keep it light while flavorful and I wanted to work sweet potatoes in the menu.

Turkey: Moist is always my first priority, so I knew I would brine it. I wanted to pick up on subtle Latin flavors without fussing too much over the bird.

Gravy: It’s like the chicken & the egg. Can’t have one without the other.

Accompanientment: Usually cranberry and, I’m sorry but I have to admit I love the canned stuff, but I needed to kick up a notch. I immediately thought guayaba! Or guava as its known stateside.

Dressing: Cornbread dressing is my absolute favorite even if traditional. My thoughts were to have corn patties topped with the extras usually found in dressing. I wanted to recreate a sophisticated version of a Panamanian tortilla.

Vegetables: Indispensable, and these pickled ones help cut through the heavy meal.

Dessert: A traditional dessert found at weddings in Panama. This is pumpkin brought to Jimmy Choo levels.

The Menu

Apricot Gingersnap Cocktail

Sweet Potato Cream with Chorizo Garnish

Achiote & Herbs Turkey
-Garlic Butter Gravy
-Guayaba Compote

Polenta Tortillas with Sausage & Chicharron Picadillo

Green Bean & Carrots Escabeche

Pumpkin Sopa de Gloria

The Planning

Putting a big meal together, particularly when you have to stick to a schedule or a set dinnertime can be overwhelming. Lists make it easier. It doesn’t matter what type of project I’m working on, a list always makes me feel at ease, like I can get it done. When I just think of the big picture or the end product I can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety, like I’m going to forget something or that I don’t have enough time to finish. Lists are good. Lists are your friend.

After I had finalized the menu, I wrote down each dish and broke it down by steps. I then prioritized the order in which to execute each step.

pardon my handwriting...

The Execution – for the recipes, click on the links.

Gobble, gobble!

Cookingly yours,

Who moved my turkey?

I’ve not made it yet, but I’ve been thinking¬†about it. I can tell you that there has been some turkey action in my kitchen already. AND I will make a pre-Thanksgiving turkey turkey. It will be loved and cajoled¬†with lots of goodness, but it doesn’t happen until later today, soooo. No post until tomorrow. Howevah (that’s a fancy Southern-drawl but) be sure to come around tomorrow, I hope to have something so sensational you’ll be happy you came.

All of this turkeypalooza¬†is for your benefit. Yep. I do it all for you, my bloggies. I know what you’re thinking. You don’t get to eat any of it, but you could if you made it, which is why this is for you.

This post will give you a couple of ideas for the upcoming festivities. If you’ve never made turkey before, or don’t know how to spicy it up, I hope these ideas will spark the turkey fire in you.

I must first admit that I am, in fact, a briner. I am. When it comes to turkey, the birds are so large and just not fatty enough, that brining¬†seems to be the best way to guarantee juicy plumpness. So I brine. And every year I add something new to the basic brine. But today I thought you could hear from a real Chef. I found this on CHOW yesterday, and though he doesn’t offer up a specific recipe, Michael Chiarello explains the process beautifully. I seem to be having some linking issues…, but this is the shortened link:

Brining does wonders for turkey, here’s what I did last year:

Let’s talk a little about what I’ve been up to the last few weeks. I roasted a turkey breast. This was a little test run for the way in which I was roasting it. Wanna see?

Turkey Breast with Mexican Chorizo

¬†I started out with a 4ish¬†pound chicken breast, it still had bones and skin. When brining, you decide what to flavor with, the only must haves¬†are water, salt and sugar. Remember to exaggerate the seasonings, it will all be diluted by the water.¬†I added 2 pkts of Sazon, salt, herbs d’Provence, some Jugo Maggi and let it hang out for about an hour.

Preheated the oven to 325 and pulled out the chorizo from the casing and flattened it for easier handling. Removed the breast from the brine, dried it with paper towels and began to loosen the skin so I could squish the chorizo in. I added chorizo everywhere I could. Then drizzled the skin with olive oil and used toothpicks to secure the skin to the meat.

In the oven it went for close to 2 hours. I checked it after 80 minutes or so and based on the thermometer, it wasn’t quite ready. I would say just over 1-1/2 hours would’ve done it. At any rate, you want the internal temperature to read 185.

Remove the toothpicks, cover with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes or so. Remove from the bone and slice. You’ll end up with something that looks like this.

This was excellent. We paired with bacony sweet potatoes. Heaaaaaaven!

This would be a great way to make your bird, depending on the size of it, you’d probably need about 2 packets of chorizo (approx 1/2 lb).

Cookingly yours,

Sides on the side

I wanted to bring you more side dishes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional stuff, believe you me, but sometimes change is good. At the very least, you should explore your possibilities. I’m just sayin’.

Let’s talk green beans. I love me some of that creamy green bean casserole. I look forward to it every year. But here are a couple of other ways to have the green things, and to make it even better, these can be made ahead. AND, they got that sabor latino going on. As a matter of fact, they’re improved by resting.

I’ll start you off with an adaptation of Rick Bayless’ recipe for Jalape√Īos en Escabeche. This one definitely needs to be made at least 1 day before you need to serve it. This will allow the vinegar to mellow and all the flavors to mellow.

Green Beans and Carrots Escabeche (Pickled Green Beans and Carrots)
adapted from Rick Bayless’ Mexico One Plate at a Time

1/3 cp oil (I combined extra virgin olive & vegetable)
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cps baby carrots
2 cps fresh green beans
4-8 serrano peppers, whole
1-1/2 cps cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
1 tsp Herbs d’Provence
1 tsp dry lavender
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the garlic. Allow the garlic to cook for about 3 minutes, making sure to turn them occasionally so they don’t turn brown. Next, add the carrots, green beans (I cut the beans to 2-inch pieces) and peppers. Keep stirring to coat the veggies and allow them to begin softening for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the vinegar, bay leaves, Herbs d’Provence, lavender, about 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tsp sugar, ground pepper and about 1-1/2 cps water. Allow it to come to a soft simmer, before loosely covering the pot. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow it cool before transferring to a non-aluminum container to refrigerate overnight.

As long as you keep them chilled, these will keep for well over a month.

Next, we are revisiting the Mojo. No, not the Austin Powers mojo, but Mojo Criollo. A few weeks ago I shared a recipe to use on yuca or potatoes. This time we’re following the basic recipe and adding some onions. Check it out.

Green Beans with Mojo Criollo

2/3 cp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cp red onions, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp white vinegar
Sea salt
1 tsp sugar
Fresh green beans, trimmed & blanched

To blanch the green beans: bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop the green beans in the boiling water and allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes. Drain and plunge the green beans in ice-cold water. This will stop them from cooking and will preserve the pretty green color.

Next, prepare the mojo. Heat up a small pan over medium temperature and add the minced garlic, make sure to stir it constantly to avoid burning it, about 1-2 minutes. Add the onions and cook until softened.

Once the onions have softened, add the lime juice and vinegar. Stir until well blended, then season with a bit of salt, black pepper and sugar. Allow it to cook for about 5 minutes over medium low temperature. Add the green beans and remove it from the heat.


You’re done. This one will work if made a day in advance. You can make the mojo the day before, then blanch the green beans just before serving. Or, you can make the whole thing the day before and just reheat when it’s dinner time.

For more food porn shots, click the link.
Cookingly yours,

Once you go black…

Well, you know what they say. That statement is definitely accurate when it refers to plantains. Yes, you heard me right. Plantains. More specifically, ripe plantains. The darker the skin on the plantain, the sweeter it will be.

If you¬†were to purchase plantains and allow them to ripen at home, it would take about 7-9 days to get them to that dark dar stage. Now, mind you, you don’t want them to be mushy. They should feel¬†the same way a ripe avocado does. Soft and springy, not mushy. When you fry up plantains into tajadas using very ripe ones, you end up with this kind of caramelization. Heavenly!

Plantains are very versatile. And this recipe may be just the thing you’ve been looking for to spice up your Thanksgiving table. Side dishes around the world can be similar, even when prepared¬†with very different ingredients. Pl√°tanos¬†en Tentaci√≥n (loosely translates to tempting plantains) are a popular side dish in Panama, present on every party and holiday table.

If you’re bored with traditional sweet potatoes or just want to introduce your loved ones to something exotic, you should bring home the tropics with this traditional dish.

Plátanos en tentación (Glazed plantains)

2 ripe plantains (best if peel is dark brown-to black)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter

Peel the plantains and slice them in half, lengthwise. Then cut the halves into pieces about 2-inches long.

Place the plantain pieces into a medium-sized skillet (about 12-inches), then sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, salt over the plantains.

Divide the butter into 4 pieces and drop it in the skillet. Cover the plantains with water, this will take about 2 cups of water, add the vanilla.

Bring it to a soft boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves. Allow it to cook until the water evaporates, about 20 minutes.

Once the water has dried, the plantains will begin to caramelize in the residual syrup. Reduce the temperature to low, and turn the plantain pieces a few times to make sure they brown evenly. Serve warm. These can be made ahead and reheated before serving.

For additional delicious shots, click here.

Cookingly yours,