Cuban Thanksgiving

Cuban Thanksgiving

An Excerpt From Our Latin Table

by Fernando Saralegui

Thanksgiving is the fall's big gathering. The kitchen is always crowded, with Ale passing Luli the daiquiri under Kendall's arm, while he is puting the bird in the oven. I'm balancing a glass of wine and reaching for a boniato handoff from Angela. The table is a long one on this day. We manage to blend some of our favorite Cuban flavors with this quintessential American holiday. We have a lot to be thankful for.

Steamed Yuca with Mojo

3 pounds frozen yuca

10 cloves garlic

4 cups oregano leaves

Juice of 2 limes

¾ Cup olive oil

¼ Cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1/8 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Steam the yuca in the basket of a vegetable steamer over medium-high heat for 30 minutes.

While the yuca is steaming, puree the garlic, oregano, lime juice, olive oil, orange juice, cumin, salt, and pepper in the jar of a blender or in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve yuca hot with mojo sauce.

Cumin-and-Oregano Rubbed Turkey with Chorizo-and Cornbread Stuffing

The truth is that our Thanksgiving turkey is an annual experiment because the turkey preparation job is taken on by a different sibling every year. This recipe is one of my favorites.

16-pound turkey, fresh or defrosted

3-4 cups Cornbread Stuffing (recipe follows)

Kitchen string

Cumin Rub (recipe follows)

1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the plastic piece from the legs of the turkey, if necessary, and the gizzard package and neck from the cavity. Rinse the turkey inside and out with very cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

Loosely stuff the turkey with the stuffing. Pull the legs together so that they overlap. Use the kitchen string to tie the legs together. Spoon any leftover cornbread stuffing into a buttered ovenproof casserole dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

Using your hands, gently rub about half to three quarters of the cumin rub over the exterior of the turkey, working it lightly into the skin. Reserve the remaining rub for basting the turkey during roasting.

Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Roast uncovered for 30 minutes until the skin starts to brown, then cover with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the 3 sticks of butter over medium heat. Stir in the remaining rub. Set aside, covered, to keep warm. Use a pastry brush to baste the turkey with the seasoned butter every 30 minutes during roasting.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees and roast the turkey for about 4 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when the meat is pricked, the leg joints feel loose, and a meat thermometer registers 180 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh. Check the stuffing: the thermometer should register 165 degrees when inserted into the center of the stuffing.


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons cumin

5 tablespoons dried oregano

3 tablespoons smoked paprika (hot)

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons fresh-cracked pepper

¼ cup olive oil

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.

Combine the seasonings and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and stir to mix well. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


4 8½-ounce boxes cornbread mix

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

2 large Spanish onions, chopped

10 cloves garlic, minced

4 small (7 ounces) chorizo sausages, diced

2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped

1 cup fresh oregano, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Bake the cornbread according to package directions. While the bread is still warm, cut it into small cubes in the pan. Let the bread sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 12 hours or overnight. Remove the bread from the pan and crumble to make coarse breadcrumbs.

To toast the pine nuts, bake them on a baking sheet in a 300-degree oven for approximately 5 minutes until they turn golden brown. Watch carefully as they will burn fast. Immediately remove the nuts from the pan to a clean dish to stop them cooking.

In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sautéed onion and garlic, sausages, red pepper and oregano, mixing well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The stuffing can be made up to this point a day in advance and kept refrigerated in an airtight container.

Reserve 3 to 4 cups of the stuffing to stuff the turkey.

Pumpkin Flan

1¾ cup sugar

1½ cups whole milk

½ cup unflavored canned pumpkin puree

1 cinnamon stick

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy saucepan melt 1 cup sugar over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is amber in color and has turned into a smooth liquid. Immediately remove the syrup from heat and pour evenly into the bottom of a heated 9-inch glass pie plate, 2-quart casserole dish, or a cake mold. (To heat the dish, pour hot or boiling water into it and let stand for a minute or two, then drain and dry completely before adding the sugar syrup.)

In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk, pumpkin puree, cinnamon stick, and salt to a boil over medium heat and remove from heat immediately. Discard the cinnamon stick.

In a large mixing bowl beat together the eggs, egg yolks, remaining sugar, and vanilla. While the beater is running, slowly add ½ cup of the hot milk mixture and beat until eggs are tempered, then slowly add the remaining hot milk.

Pour the mixture into the dish over the hardened sugar syrup and place in a baking pan. Add hot water to halfway up the side of the dish. Place in oven and cook for 1 hour or until the custard has set.

Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven and remove the flan dish from the hot water bath and allow to cool. While the flan is still warm, run a knife around the edge to loosen it.

To remove flan, place a large, deep plate face down on top of the dish and invert the flan onto the plate. Make sure the plate is large enough to hold the flan and has enough of a well to hold the syrup.

Flan can be served warm or chilled. The flan can be prepared 2 days in advance and kept covered and refrigerated.

Copyright © 2003 by Fernando Saralegui and Alvaro Saralegui

Read our review of Our Latin Table by clicking here.


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