Pass the Pavochón. A Puerto Rican Spin on Thanksgiving Turkey
Bring a melting pot to the Thanksgiving table with a Boriqua-inspired turkey. Pavochón comes from "pavo" (turkey) and "lechon" (pork), and combines the seasoning of roasted pork with the classic bird. Serve it with arroz con gandules — known more broadly as Puerto Rican rice. There are many variations. We asked Xiomara Rodriguez from Discover Puerto Rico for her family recipe, and she shared it below.
1 whole turkey, 12-14 lbs.
10 garlic cloves (about one head), peeled
1½ Tbsp. ground oregano
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. white vinegar
2 packets of Sazón seasoning, with achiote
adobo (1 tsp. for every pound)
6-8 strips of uncooked bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
1. Start the day before you plan to cook the turkey. Wash your defrosted bird, and let dry over a baking tray. Don't forget to remove the innards (double check to see if some of the innards are stored in the neck).
2. Next, crush the garlic in a food processor or mortar and pestle, together with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add olive oil and achiote seasoning; mix well and set aside.
3. Place the turkey over a firm work surface and carefully remove all the skin, especially from around the breast section. Make various small cuts around the sides and over the turkey legs, then completely cover the turkey with the prepared marinade sauce.
4. Make small incisions in the meat, especially around the breast, and stuff them with bacon. Cover your turkey with aluminum foil and let it marinate in the refrigerator for 12–24 hours. If you plan on stuffing, do not do so until you are ready to put the bird in the oven.
5. To finish, put in the oven for approximately five and a half hours at 350°F, or until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees.
Pro Tip: To get an extra tender and juicy turkey, roast it for around 8 hours at 200 degrees. The meat will fall off the bone. On Thanksgiving Day, I pop the turkey in the oven at 6 a.m. and
go back to bed. The turkey will be ready around 1 or 2 p.m., perfect for a late lunch or an early dinner.
Arroz con Gandules
This traditional Puerto Rican dish, referred to as Puerto Rican rice, is served during the holiday season and includes the Puerto Rican umami staple, sofrito (a puree of onions, peppers, garlic, and plum tomatoes).
2 c. medium or long white rice, rinsed
2 c. water (1:1 to the amount of rice)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. (heaping!) of sofrito (see note above)
½ c. country ham, cubed (you can make the dish vegan by skipping this ingredient)
2 Tbsp. sliced stuffed olives
1 jar roasted red peppers, thinly sliced or chopped
1 large can (13 oz.) pigeon peas
2 packets of sazón con achiote
salt or adobo to taste
fresh or thawed frozen banana leaves, washed and wiped for steaming (optional)
1. In a large pot or caldero, heat oil and sauté sofrito until fragrant. Add sazón, ham, peppers, and olives. Let it simmer for a minute or two until it browns a little.
2. Stir in pigeon peas and add water. Taste and readjust seasonings, adding salt or adobo a little at a time. The broth should be heavily seasoned and on the salty side.
3. Bring to a rapid boil, then add rice and stir. You may need to add more water to ensure rice is covered completely.
4. Reduce heat to a soft boil or medium heat and let most of the liquid absorb and evaporate without covering the pot.
5. If you are using banana leaves, cover the rice and set the lid. If not, just cover the pot with a lid and cook on low heat for 22-25 minutes.
6. Remove the lid, open the banana leaves, and gently fold the rice onto itself from the outside to form a mound in the center of the pot. It's okay if some rice burns at the bottom of the pot; the tasty, crispy bits at the bottom are referred to as pegao.
7. To serve, spoon rice on a platter and garnish with remaining sliced roasted peppers.