Oswald Rivera

Author, Warrior, and Teacher

Tag: Turkey

Persian Grilled Chicken

One of my favorite cuisine is Middle Eastern. And I’m told this is the favorite way of preparing chicken in Iraq; and it harks back to the Persian Empire. The recipe can be done over hot coals on an outdoor grill or in an oven broiler. I like this recipe because its very similar our method of broiling chicken in Puerto Rican or Nuyorican neighborhoods. The only difference being that we add oregano to the marinade. And Iraquis marinate the chicken overnight, just like we do. Farther afield, in Turkey, they like to flavor the chicken with a little cumin instead of the garlic and lemon in the marinade.


1 3-pound broiler fryer chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
1 small onion, chopped and crushed to extract juices
1-3 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to tatse

1. Rinse chicken pieces under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place chicken in a bowl or large zip-lock bag. Add the remaining ingredients. If using a bowl, rub the seasoning thoroughly into the chicken parts. If using a zip-lock bag, make sure the chicken parts are thoroughly coated with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
3. If using a grill: place the chicken pieces on an oiled grill (preferably over a charcoal fire) that is very hot and glowing, and no longer smoking. Grill the pieces until golden brown but still pale and tender inside, basting with marinade and turning once.
4. If using oven broiler: broil in a pan (I prefer cast-iron), rack or greased aluminum foil 7 inches from heat source for 30 minutes. Turn once during broiling and baste frequently with the marinade.
    Yield: 4 servings.

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Puerto Rican Turkey Stuffing

Every year I post my Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Turkey recipe; or what I term the “Boricua” Turkey. To recap: a Boricua (boh-ree-kuah) is a native born Puerto Rican. However, these days it could mean anyone of Puerto Rican descent whether they were born on the island or not. That being said, I’m going to depart from tradition this time around. I always post the recipe, and it is delicious since we season it up the turkey so that it tastes like pork, which was at one time the traditional dish for the holidays—until the pork was supplanted by the turkey just like they do on the mainland. Our holiday bird is more flavorful than its North American counterpart. That’s all well and good, but I’ve gotten complaints that I never post the stuffing, as it is noted in my cookbook. Puerto Rican Cuisine in America (Perseus Books – Running Press). So, here it is, our  family’s traditional Puerto Rican stuffing for the Boricua turkey. Our recipe includes rum (to give it that Boricua taste). Note that the rum is boiled away in the cooking and only the flavor remains. One of the components that makes this stuffing unique.

     (Turkey Stuffing)

2 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds lean ground beef or 1 1/2 pounds bulk pork sausage (for a spicier variation, Spanish chorizo can
   be used), coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 pound mushrooms, washed and chopped
1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Poultry seasoning to taste (optional)
1 cup seeded raisins, soaked in 1/2  cup warm water for 10 minutes
1 cup walnuts, chopped
8 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup white Puerto Rican rum
1/2 cup chicken bouillon or broth

1. In a large skillet or kettle, heat olive oil and cook meat, stirring frequently until it loses its red color. If using sausage, it should be cooked until browned. Drain but reserve fat. 
2. Add onions, mushrooms and apple. Season to taste with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning (if using), and sauté until apples are slightly softened. It may be necessary to add some of the reserve fat to keep mixture from sticking. Add drained raisins, walnuts and bread crumbs. Cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in white rum, chicken bouillon or broth and sauté for about 5 minutes more.
3. Remove from heat. When cool, stuff turkey about three-quarters full, and follow roasting instructions.
    Yield: about 10 cups.

Note: Any extra stuffing can be placed in a covered glass casserole and baked along with the turkey for the last 45 minutes of cooking. Or it can be saved for later use and heated up with the leftovers. (I recommend baking at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes).

Picture: courtesy of Fashion Belief 

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Boricua Trukey

Last year at about this time I posted The Puerto Rican Thanksgiving Turkey. Our version of the holiday bird. I noted that we spice it differently and make it more flavorful so that it tastes like roasted pork, or pernil, the main holiday staple back on the island in the days of yore.

Here it is again, turkey a la criolla (creole style). A note on the term “Boricua.” A Boricua (bo-ree-kuah) is an inhabitant of the island of Borinquen, the native Taino Indian name for Puerto Rico. Hence a Boricua is a native born Puerto Rican. However, these days we take the term to mean anyone of Puerto Rican descent, whether they were born on the island or not.

(Stuffed Roast Turkey)

1 8 1/2-pound dressed-weight turkey
5 cloves garlic, peeled
6 whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2-pounds lean ground beef
1 packet sason accent (Goya makes a good one with coriander and annatto)
1/2 cup stuffed Spanish olives
4 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup tomato sauce

1. Rinse and wash turkey, inside and out, and wipe dry. Do the same with the heart, liver and gizzard, and then chop innards coarsely. This will be combined with the ground beef when preparing the stuffing.
2. Pound together the garlic, peppercorns, oregano and 3 teaspoons salt in a mortar. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons paprika, vinegar and combine. Rub the turkey with the seasoning inside and out—what my mother calls “adobar el pavo” (seasoning the beast). This should be done a day ahead (the turkey should be left overnight, in a covered pot, in the refrigerator). This will allow it to absorb the flavors.
3. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan or skillet. Add the ground beef and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the meat loses its color. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the sason accent, olives, capers, tomato sauce and remaining teaspoon salt. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to complete cooking the stuffing.
4. Remove from heat and let cool. Stuff the turkey loosely about three quarters full. Truss the turkey (sew or skewer together the neck and bind the legs.)
5. Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast side down. To insure a golden brown exterior combine the remaining 2 tablespoons paprika with the remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the entire turkey with this mixture and roast in a slow to moderate oven (325 degrees F.) for 3 1/2 hours. To brown bird, raise temperature to 350 degrees during the last 25 minutes of cooking. This is an excellent way of cooking if in doubt as to the tenderness of the meat. Some people prefer covering the turkey with aluminum foil while roasting, and removing this during the last 25-30 minutes of cooking time to brown the skin. I find that frequent basting during cooking gets the same results.
Baking theories abound. There is the old traditionalist view that allows 1 1/2 hours for the first pound and then 25 minutes per pound up to 7 pounds and 20 minutes per pound after that. Thus a 5 pound bird would take 3 hours and 10 minutes, a 7 pounder would take 4 hours and 10 minutes, and a 10 pound bird 5 hours and 10 minutes. But in my view, there’s no set rule. Some birds take more time to roast, some less. In the Rivera family we go by general common sense: figure a 7 to 8 pounder takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours to cook; a 10 pounder maybe 4 1/2 hours, and a 12 pound turkey maybe 5-5 1/2 hours. Rule of thumb: turkey is done when drumstick and thigh move easily.
6. For gravy: remove turkey from roasting pan and keep warm. Drain drippings from roasting pan into a sauce pan. Skim off fat but retain 1/4 cup of the drippings. Add 2 cups water or 1/2 cup dry white wine and 1 1/2 cups water to pan drippings. Bring to a boil over high heat while stirring in the 1/4 cup fat. Lower heat and thicken slightly with a little cornstarch and water combined. If you want to reduce the grease content, mix 3 teaspoons of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of water. Add this to the strained pan drippings and heat, thereby omitting the remaining fat content.
Yield: 6 to 7 servings.
Note: serve with a light Valpolicella wine, lightly chilled; a full-bodied red such as a Zinfandel or Rioja; a white Burgundy with a full and flowery bouquet; or even a good-bodied ale.

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