Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays! It's where I have spend most of my time bonding with the many women that have influenced my life. It's a time to get together with family and friends and give thanks over wonderful homemade food! My menu is a blend of the best of both worlds Puerto Rico and Georgia. Both cultures have enjoyed the recepies that have emerged from my exposure to the culinary traditions of both cultures. Some of my favorite recipes are rooted in taste some in emotions.
For many years I watched the women in my house prepare turkey, stuffing also known as "dressing", rice with pigeon peas, salad and plantains. The traditional meal was also complimented by delicious appetizers like, "guineitos en escabeche" (pickled green bananas), "empanadillas", "sandwichitos", "ensalada de coditos" (elbow macaroni salad) and an assortment of olives, cheeses and fruit. A variety of nuts were also abundant complete with nutcracker for your convenience. Puertoricans have a very distinct way to prepare stuffing (inside the turkey) and it is unusual to have dressing (outside the turkey) afterall that is what the rice is for! One of the main differences is the way the turkey is usually marinated overnight before roasting in the oven. The marinade can be very similar to that of the traditional Christmas "lechón" (roasted pork) so this turkey is also known as "pavochón".
Pickled green bananas is one of my favorites, I still make them, but the trick is to find the greenest bananas. I look for "organic" bananas because they are not injected with gas and remain green longer. My "coditos" (elbow macaroni salad) is also a huge hit specially with kids. The salad is sweet and tangy to taste and can be addictive if you are not careful. "Empanadillas" are our version of the traditional Spanish "empanada" only smaller. "Pastelillos" are similar to "empanadas" but not as doughy. They can both be made from scratch if you are good with dough, which I am NOT! So I just buy the "plantillas" (dough shaped in a circle ready to be filled) from my local Publix Supermarket. "Empanadillas" and "pastelillos" can be filled with guava and farmer cheese, or "picadillo" (ground beef).
"Sandwichitos" are just that, small sandwiches. The traditional "sandwichitos" are usually ordered from the local "panaderia" (bakery) they are flat bread usually in the colors of the season rolled with a mixture of ham, cheese, olives and cherries. The rolls are then cut into small rounds and served as appetizers. They are very traditional for special occasions and are one of the many delicious confections made at the "panaderia".
As if your mouth is not watering already, every meal in Puerto Rico includes rice. There are so many varieties of rice dishes as there are people on the Island. The traditional holiday rice is white rice cooked with "gandules" (pigeon peas). Pigeon peas are native of Africa and are small pea size bean with a distinct flavor.
Thanksgiving in the south was not much different, lots of homemade casserole goodness! Some of which I have adopted and are a part of my Thanksgiving menu every year. One that everyone loves is arguably a side dish that can double as dessert. My sweet potato souffle is a scrumptious casserole that incorporates creamy sweet potatoes with a crunchy coconut and brown sugar crust. I have to admit, I love southern style corn dressing with giblets! Every year I have to make it, although it never makes it into the bird itself. For dessert the traditional flan and pecan pies make the grand finally!
I know, I know, you want the recipes...and they are coming on the next blog. Until then, have fun creating your own blend of flavors this Thanksgiving!