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Crazy Turkey Loco

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    “Crazy turkey” is the centerpiece of this Mexican-inspiredThanksgiving fiesta.

    The turkey takes its shape and seasonings from a popular Mexicantechnique for barbecued chicken. Split through the backbone and laidflat, the butterflied bird cooks quickly and browns all over. A LosAngeles restaurant chain that specializes in this kind of chicken nameditself Pollo Loco–“crazy chicken.” We call our thanksgivingbird “Turkey loco.

    ” Stuffing, which no Thanksgiving dinner can do without, goes notinside the bird but into mild chilies (or pimientos or bell peppers). Following the flavor accents of Mexico, the tart, fresh cranberryrelish becomes a salsa with the addition of cilantro and chilies; theslightly sugared sweet potatoes are sparked with lime and tequila; andonions roast dark and mellow in a piquant marinade. Humble and oftenignored, canned hominy (similar in taste to the Mexican cornpreparation, nixtamal) is an ideal neutral element in this menu. Forbread, serve warm corn tortillas to butter.

    As refreshing before-dinner antojitos, orange wedges, pineapplechunks, and jicama sticks–typical Mexican street snacks–are offeredwith a red chili salt. And there are peanuts to nibble. For dessert, consider the pumpkin creme brulee on page 114, withits smooth custard base and crisp sugar crust. Every dish in this meal for 16 has steps that can be done ahead.

    Antojitos Tray Spanish Peanuts Turkey Loco Stuffed Chilies CranberrySalsa Sweet Potatoes with Tequila and Line Roasted Onions ButteredHominy Warm Corn Tortillas Pumpkin Creme Brulee Sauvignon BlancZinfandel Fresh Limeade A day ahead, you can assemble the antojito tray, butterfly theturkey, get the stuffed chilies ready to bake, make the cranberry salsa,cook the sweet potatoes (reheat them later to serve), and marinate theonions. The chilies and onions cook at the same temperature; putchilies on an upper oven rack, onions on a lower. Hominy and tortillas need only to be briefly warmed before serving. Serve white and red wine, or beer.

    Or offer mineral water or freshlimeade. Antojitos Tray Cut 3 large unpeeled oranges into 8 wedges each. Cut 1 medium-size(about 4 1b.) ripe, unpeeled pineapple crosswise into 1/2-inch slices;remove core and cut each slice into quarters.

    Scrub and peel 1-1/2pounds jicama; cut into 1/4-by 1/4-by 3-inch sticks. Coat fruit andjicama with lime juice; you need about 1/2 cup juice. Mix 1/4 cup salt with 1 tablespoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cayenneor chili powder. Arrange on a tray to serve; dip foods in salt.

    Accompany with additional lime wedges to squeeze over foods if desired.If made ahead, cover with plastic wrap and chill as long as 1 day.Serves 10 to 16. Turkey Loco 1 turkey (10 to 12 lb.; thaw if frozen)About 4 limes, cut into halves About 4 teaspoons dry oregano leaves Saltand pepper Have you meatman saw through the length of the turkey’sbackbone; or, at home, use spring-loaded poultry shears and cut justalong the bone–or use a heavy knife and hit with a flat mallet. Lay turkey on its breast and pull it open from the back, pushingdown to flatten; some ribs will crack. Discard fat lumps. If doneahead, cover and chill as long as overnight.

    Ignite 50 charcoal briquets on the fire grate of a barbecue (atleast 21-in. diameter) with lid. When coals are just covered with grayaskh, push half the coals to each side of the grate and set a 9- by13-inch drip pan in the center. Position barbecue grill 6 to 8 inchesabove the fire grate.

    Lay spread-open bird, breast up, on grill overdrip pan. Squeeze and rub 1 or 2 lime halves over turkey; sprinkle withoregano and lightly with salt and pepper. Cover barbecue and open dampers. Every 1/2 hour, squeeze and rub 1or 2 more lime halves onto turkey and add 5 or 6 briquets to each sideof the coals to maintain constant temperature.

    Cook turkey untilthermometer inserted in thickest part of breast (not touching bone)registers 170 [deg.], 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Transfer turkey to a platter. To carve, cut off wings and slicebreat.

    Cut off legs and slice meat from thights. Serves 16. StuffedChilies 16 fresh green or red Anaheim (California) or ancho (poblano)chilies (2 to 2-1/4 lb.) or 16 fresh small pimientos or small green,red, or yellow bell peppers Chorizo stuffing (recipe follows) Leave stems on chilies, pimientos, or peppers; slit eachlengthwise.

    Pull out seeds and ribs. Fill chilies equally with chorizostuffing; place, side by side and stuffed side up, in a 10- by 15-inchrimmed pan. (If made ahead, cover and chill as long as overnight). Bake, uncovered, in upper third of a 400 [deg.] oven until chiliesare soft and light brown, about 25 minutes. Set on a platter. Makes 16servings. Chorizo stuffing.

    Strip casing from 3/4 pound chorizo sausage, oruse 3/4 pound bulk pork sausage. Put meat in a 12- to 14-inch fryingpan on medium-high heat with 1 large clove garlic, minced; 3/4 teaspoonground cumin; and 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano leaves. Crumble meat and stiroften until browned, about 10 minutes. Trim root ends and coarse stems from 2 pounds spinach; wash, drain,and coarsely chop.

    Rinse and finely chop 1/2 pound mushrooms. add tomeat and cook on high heat until liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes.Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups soft bread crumbs, 3/4 cup shreddedjack cheese, and 1 egg. Mix well; add salt lto taste.

    If made ahead,cover and chill mixture as long as overnight before stuffing thechilies. Cranberry Salsa 2 cups cranberries 4 teaspoons grated orangepeel 2 large oranges, peeled with a knife to remove white membrane, thencoarsely chopped 1/4 cup each minced onion and salad oil 1 tablespooneach minced cilantro and minced fresh ginger 1 fresh small hot green(jalapeno or serrano) chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced Salt Whirl cranberries in a food processor or blender until chopped;empty into a bowl. Add orange peel, chopped orange (drained), onion,oil, cilantro, ginger, and chili. Blend sauce; add salt to taste.

    Serve, or cover and chill as long as overnight. Makes about 3 cups, or16 servings. Sweet Potatoes with Tequila and Line 1-1/2 cups (3/4 lb.)butter or margarine 4 pounds sweet potatoes or yams 1/4 cup sugar 1/4cup tequila, optional 2 tablespoons lime juice Salt and pepper Limewedges or havles Put a metal baking pan (about 12 by 17 in. ) on two burners overmedium heat; add butter and stir until melted. Set aside. Peel andshred potatoes with a food processor or with the coarse holes of agrater. At once, mix with butter in pan, then sprinkle with sugar.

    Onmedium heat over the two burners, cook, uncovered, until potatoes beginto caramelize and look slightly translucent, about 15 minutes; turnoccasionally with a wide spatula (take care not to mash or break upsheads). Stir in tequila and lime juice. Cook, stirring, about 3 minuteslonger. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    If made ahead, cover andchill as long as overnight; 15 minutes before serving, return coveredpan to two burners on medium-low heat to warm; stir occasionally. Pour sweet potatoes into a bowl; garnish with lime wedges. Makes16 servings. Roasted Onions 1-1/2 cups water 1 cup balsamic or red winevinegar 4 teaspoons firmly packed brown sugar About 1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon pepper 8 medium-size onions Blend water, vinegar, and sugar; add 1/2 teaspoon salt and thepepper.

    Pour equally into 2 baking pans (each 9 by 13 in.). Cut onionslengthwise in half through skins; place, cut side down, in vinegarmixture. (If made ahead, cover and chill up to overnight. ) Bake, uncovered, in the lower third of a 400 [deg.] over untilonions give readily when gently squeezed, most liquid has evaporated,and cut sides of onions are glazed–1 to 1-1/4 hours. Arrange, cut sideup, on a platter. Add salt to taste.

    Serves 16. Buttered Hominy 1/2cup (1/4 lb.) butter or margarine 5 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) golden and/orwhite hominy, drained Salt and pepper In a 12- to 14-inch pan, melt butter over high heat.

    Add hominyand stir, uncovered, until hot, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, addsalt and pepper to taste, and serve. Makes 16 servings. Warm CornTortillas Unwrap and stack 3 dozen corn tortillas.

    Wrap stack airtight infoil. Place in a 400 [deg.] oven until heated through, about 20minutes. Wrap in a towel to keep warm and serve from a basket.

    Offterbutter or margarine to spread on hot tortillas. Makes 16 servings.

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