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By Kelisa Pascal

Thanksgiving is particularly an American holiday, but U.S. territories in the Caribbean also celebrate this day of feast.

The U.S Virgin Islands St. John, St. Croix, St. Thomas, and the island of Puerto Rico celebrate Thanksgiving. These thanksgiving meals have a Caribbean twist that Hector Rodriguez, a Latin Caribbean food expert shares. Whip up these recipes at home to get in touch with our Caribbean roots.

Pavochon
Roasted turkey seasoned like roasted pig is a tradition in Puerto Rico
SERVES 14-18
turkey

INGREDIENTS

1 head of garlic (cloves separated and peeled)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons adobo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 14-pound turkey
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 150 minutes

PREPARATION

Mash the garlic cloves and salt into a paste using a pilòn (mortar and pestle).
Add the peppercorns and adobo and crush the ingredients into the paste.
Stir in the olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
Rub the mixture under the turkey’s skin, inside the cavities, and then rub the rest of the mixture on top of the skin.
Roast the turkey according to the manufacturer’s recommended time and temperature. A 14 to 16 pound turkey will take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to cook.

Mofongo Stuffing
A plantain turkey stuffing as an alternative to traditional bread and meat stuffing.
stuffing

INGREDIENTS
6 green plantains
Vegetable oil for frying
1 lb. cooked bacon (chopped into small pieces)
6 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 sweet chili peppers (seeded and finely chopped)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chicken broth
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

PREPARATION

Heat the oil for frying to 375 degrees.
While the oil is heating up, peel the green plantains and then cut them into 3/4 inch slices.
Fry the slices in the hot oil for 3 minutes. They should be a light golden color and semi-soft.
Remove the plantain slices with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Tip: Maintain the oil’s temperature.
When the plantain slices are cool enough to handle (about 1 minute), smash them into flat rounds.
Fry the rounds in the hot oil for 3 minutes. They will turn crisp and golden brown.
Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
In a mortar and pestle, mash together the bacon, garlic, peppers, onion, and olive oil a little at a time until everything is incorporated.
Add the broth. If the stuffing is not moist enough, add more broth until you get the consistency you prefer.
Serve the stuffing as it is or stuff your turkey and follow cooking instructions on the turkey package.

Arroz con Gandules
Rice with pigeon peas to replace mashed potatoes.
SERVES 4-6
rice

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sofrito
1/2 cup chopped ham (or cooked pork pieces)
2 cups rice
4 cups water
1 packet sazón
1 15-ounce can Pigeon Peas/Gandules (drained and rinsed)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

PREPARATION

Heat olive oil in a 6-quart pot. Saute the sofrito and chopped ham for 1 minute.
Add the rice, water, sazón and gandules.
Bring to a boil. Let boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for 35 to 40 minutes.
Tip: Do not use a lid with a vent that allows the steam to escape. Never lift the lid while cooking.

When finished cooking, stir the rice before serving. It should be light and fluffy.

Surullitos
Cornmeal cheese sticks to replace cornbread and biscuits.
SERVES 8-12
cheese

INGREDIENTS
6 cups water
4 teaspoons salt
3 cups yellow cornmeal
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
vegetable oil for frying
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

PREPARATION

Combine the water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Stirring constantly, slowly and steadily (so as not to interrupt the boil) pour the cornmeal into the water.
Continue to stir for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cheddar cheese.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Divide the mixture into 24 equal portions, then shape each portion into uniform cylinders about 3 inches long. Place them on wax paper to prevent sticking.
Heat the oil for frying, then fry the surullitos in small batches of 4 at a time for about 5 minutes each. Turn them while frying for even browning.
Drain on paper towels and keep warm until serving time.

Besitos de Coco
Coconut Kisses, a cookie in the Spanish speaking islands.
SERVINGS: 24 COOKIES
cookies

INGREDIENTS
3 cups coconut flakes
1/2 cup flour
4 egg yolks
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons coconut (or vanilla) extract
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a 13x9x2 cookie sheet.
In a bowl, thoroughly mix all ingredients together into a dough.
Divide the dough into 24 uniform balls.
Place the balls on the greased cookie sheet and bake for about 35 minutes. They should be golden.

Bacardi Rum Cake
rum cake

INGREDIENTS
—Cake—
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts
1 18-1/2 ounce yellow cake mix
one 3.4 ounce package (4-serving size) instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold milk*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum
—Glaze—
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

PREPARATION

Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts on bottom of pan. Combine all cake ingredients. Beat for 2 minutes on high with electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Cool in pan. Invert on serving plate. Prick top with fork. Drizzle glaze over top of Bacardi Rum Cake. Use brush or spoon to put extra dripping back on cake.
Glaze: Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Note: The rum will cause steam. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Optional: you may substitute a Cuban chocolate buttercream for the glaze, as seen in photo

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