The holidays have mercifully fallen behind us as we blast off into 2016, boldly going where some (but not all) cooks have gone before. New culinary cultures to explore! New twists on a classic protein! New recipes involving chillies and chocolate! New! New! New!
Unfortunately not everyone’s riding this rocket ship. The local Mega-Lo-Marts are still stuck in December, stuffed full of Freon-belching display coolers filled with discount frozen turkeys and bags of cranberries. Every day the price on these abandoned birds drops a little lower until they’re practically throwing them at passing cars just to free up shelf space.
Say what you will about the big box collective or the inhumanity of turkey farmers or the dubious nature of discount poultry in general, but a fifteen pound bird (dressed and ready to eat) for thirteen dollars isn’t something I’m going to let rot until Easter. Sold!
But how do you convince your family and friends to eat one more bite of America’s favourite holiday fowl after they’ve been subjected to a solid month of turkey leftovers? You jazz it up! Try something new! New! New! New! Let’s arc this rocket ship over all the usual mashed potato gringo nonsense and aim for lands and cuisines much farther South. No sleep ‘till we hit Puebla!
Yes, if I trust one culture to have a killer arsenal of turkey recipes, it’s Mexico! Early Mesoamericans domesticated turkeys over 2000 years ago; raising ‘em for their long, luxurious feathers as opposed to their sweet tryptophan-laced flesh. The proto-Mayans were apparently the first to start breeding more meat on ‘dem bones and by the time Cortez landed on their beaches the Aztec already had a massive turkey market in their capital and even included a plague god Chalchiuhtotolin (“Jewelled Turkey”) in their pantheon of Gods.
Any modern Mexican holiday is a celebration of food as much as family. And the centerpiece of the meal, even more revered than the roasted goat or aunt Camila’s pozole is a big, brackish simmering earthenware pot full of mole. Hell, the national dish is Mole Poblano, a dark, slightly sweet stew of chillies and chocolate from a convent in Puebla that is usually served over (surprise!) turkey.
This recipe is a modified version of a stellar Mole De Guajolote joint from the 1974 edition of the Sunset Mexican Cookbook. I urge anyone to seek out this thrift store gem, not only for it’s recipes but also for the fabulously kitchy 1970s food photography and hilarious depictions of Mexico as a land of mystery akin to the surface of mars.
Turkey Mole (Makes a big ‘o stew pot full – Roughly 3 or 4 liters)
- 1 ½ Tbls. (23ml) Canola Oil
- 2 Full Turkey Legs and Thighs (roughly 2 kg, bone-in)
- Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tbls. (15ml) Lard
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Fennel Seed
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Coriander
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Cumin
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Ancho Chilli
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Mulato Chilli
- ¼ Tsp. Ground Pasilla Chilli
- 1 Large Yellow Onion (175g, chopped)
- 4 Lrg. Garlic Cloves (30g, chopped)
- 3 Cups (700ml) Turkey or Chicken Stock
- 2 Cups (400g) Tomatoes (Peeled and diced)
- 1 Tbls. (15g) Tomato Paste
- ½ Cup (75g) Seedless Raisins
- 1 Tsp. Dried Oregano
- 1 Tsp. Sesame Seeds
- 2 oz. (60g) Unsweetened Chocolate (grated)
- Heat the oil in a solid, non-stick skillet (dust off that old cast-iron beast ya’ll!) over medium heat. Season the turkey legs all over with salt ‘n pepper and sear ‘em in the pan until nicely browned, about five minutes per side. Remove the turkey from the pan and set aside on a plate lined with paper towel or a rack to drain any excess oil.
- Plop the lard (sexy!) into the still-warm pan and return it to the flames. Over medium heat the lard will melt in about a minute. Add all the ground spices and cook while constantly stirring for about five minutes. This will re-vitalize all those latent oils and bring the spices back to full throat-kicking potential! Also, you might want to open a window or two and close a couple interior doors, unless you want your laundry room to smell like cumin for a week.
- In go the onions and garlic with all that sizzling spicy-oily goodness! Stir it around for three minutes to soften and pour in the stock (phsssst). Once the whole mess has come up to a low simmer add in the turkey legs, tomatoes, paste, raisins, oregano and sesame. Keep it on medium heat and it will come to a low simmer again in a couple minutes.
- Simmer that, uncovered and infrequently stirring for about an hour before adding in the chocolate. Fish out the turkey legs and shred the turkey meat off the bone and add it into the pot with the rest of the rabble. keep it simmering for a final half hour. The end result will be a beautiful mahogany stew with a syrupy consistency and a meaty, ropy texture much like pulled pork. Serve with fresh tortillas.
Music to Stir Mole To:
The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ