Turkey with a Twist

Turkey with a Twist

Feeding a crowd for Thanksgiving and seeking a fresh alternative to the traditional roast? Consider this super-saucy Salvadoran Turkey Pavo.

Pavo Navideño

  • 1 turkey
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, about 4 inches each
  • 4 dried pasilla chilies, stems removed
  • 2½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 6 plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large white onion, cut into eighths
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Optional:
  • ¾ cup pitted green olives
  • ½ cup capers

The night before:

Remove giblets (reserve or freeze for making stock). Wash the bird well inside and out, and pat dry with a clean cotton tea towel.

Make a paste with the butter, vinegar, thyme, salt, and mustard. Rub the paste all over the bird, inside and out, making sure to get some of the butter under the skin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The day of:

Over medium-high heat, warm a dry skillet. Shaking the skillet occasionally, toast the pepitas until they stop popping. Set aside. Turn heat down to low and toast the sesame seeds until they turn golden brown; be careful not to burn them. Add to the pepitas. One ingredient at a time, toast the bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon sticks, just until fragrant. Set those aside and toast the chilies for about one minute.

Add the chilies to the pepitas, along with salt, oregano, and pepper. Place in the bowl of a food processor with 2 cups water and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Roast or grill the tomatoes and onions until charred in places. Using the food processor, blend with garlic, breadcrumbs, and 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth, then add the seed-chile paste, the final 2 cups of water, and blend some more. Then add the toasted bay leaves, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks.

About an hour in advance, take the turkey out of the fridge so it’s room temperature when it goes into the oven. Place it breast-side up in a large roasting pan and preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Roast the turkey in for 5 minutes, then turn it breast-side down and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn bird back to breast-side up and pour sauce all over it. Roast 1 hour uncovered. Then add olives and capers if you wish, cover, and roast for about 2 ½ hours more for a 12 to 16-lb bird, basting frequently, until cooked all the way through. (The thigh temperature should be 170ºF).

Let rest 20 minutes before carving; the thigh temperature will rise to 180ºF. Discard the bay leaves, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.

Serve the turkey meat with fluffy white rolls (Portuguese buns work well), mayonnaise, mustard, sliced tomato, red onions, lettuce, canned jalapeno peppers, avocado slices, and extra sauce.