Turkey is the symbol of Thanksgiving in the United States because
the earliest European Americans famously enjoyed wild turkey as
part of their first Thanksgiving meal in 1621. The turkey is indeed
an American bird with subspecies ranging over North and Central
America, but the first domesticated turkeys - and all domesticated
turkeys raised in the world today - originated in Mexico.
The University of Florida reported in a 2012 study that turkeys were possibly domesticated and traded throughout Mexico and Central America as early as 300 B. C., judging by bones of a turkey species native to northern Mexico found in a Mayan archaeological site in Guatemala.
With more than 2,000 years of turkey preparation under their belts, how is Turkey prepared in Mexico and Central America?
"In El Salvador, we serve turkey at Christmastime," said Theresa Alfaro of Los Alfaro Taste of Latin America on Kentucky Avenue.
"If we want to stuff the turkey, we use a small one, about 8 to 10 pounds.
"Larger turkeys we cut up before we soak it in a marinade and it takes the flavors better and cooks more quickly."
The traditional Salvadoran recipe for turkey involves an overnight slathering of mustard, soy sauce, minced garlic and Worcestershire sauce, then a long slow bake surrounded by a mixture of prunes, capers, onions, peppers, tomatoes, other vegetables and wine. All the drippings and veggies are pured into a flavorful sauce while the turkey rests. For an even richer, mol-like sauce, nuts, seeds and dried chilies can be added to the mixture.
"Adding the seeds and nuts makes the sauce special," Alfaro said. "It's similar to a chicken dish I make here at the restaurant. You can use guajillo or pasilla chili for the sauce. We also roast the giblets with the turkey, add when you add the vegetables, and pure those right up in the sauce. You can add garbanzo beans and black olives to the vegetables too, to make the sauce even thicker."
For a holiday turkey stuffing, a mixture is made with ground beef and vegetables.
"If the turkey is small and we want to stuff it, we cook ground beef with carrots, green beans, diced tomatoes and potatoes, onions and garlic," Alfaro said. "It's seasoned with salt and pepper and a little chicken bouillon. Then we stuff the turkey with that. It never overcooks because it's inside the turkey."
PAVO SALVADOREO - SALVADORAN TURKEY
Source: Whatsforeats.com, adapted by Theresa Alfaro Serves 8-10
1 whole turkey, with giblets, around 8 pounds (a larger turkey can be used, but should be cut into pieces before marinating)
cup Dijon mustard
cup Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
10 tomatoes, peeled and cored
6 onions, chopped 6 green peppers, blackened, peeled, and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup prunes, pitted
cup green olives, pitted
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup white wine
3 cups chicken broth or stock
- salt and pepper to taste
1 The day before roasting the turkey, remove and reserve the giblets and wash the turkey well with cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels and tuck the wings under the body to keep them from
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