On Zarela’s Mind: Giving Thanks (And the Famous Pavo Borracho)

From my son Rodrigo’s second grade homework book:

On Thanksgiving morning my mother made a pumpkin pie.
It smelled wonderful while it was baking.
When the pie was done, Mom took it out of the oven and
put in the turkey. Then we could smell the turkey baking.
Finally we got to sit down and eat.
It sure was a great dinner.

That is what Thanksgiving means to me. For years, I made the entire meal. Now that my children are all grown up and married, each one brings their specialty because the rule at our home is that everything must be homemade. (Well, except for the bread. You either are a bread baker or not and we’re not.) I love to have my familia around me as we cook.

In Mexico, most people do not celebrate Thanksgiving. But all along the border, both Mexicans and Mexican-Americans celebrate this beautiful holiday. The traditional menu in most households is: Turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, overcooked green beans, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with gooey marshmallows. Most people prepare the classics. We do too, but with a twist.

Marissa, my daughter, and her husband Emanuel make delicious desserts; my favorite is her pear gallette and Emanuel’s flourless chocolate cake. Victoria, Rodrigo’s wife, makes a fabulous pavlova and a wonderful pumpkin pie. She also prepares the chicken liver pate that is always one of our appetizers. Violeta, my first granddaughter, has a hearty appetite and I cannot wait to see how she reacts to the new dishes.

You might be thinking, “But where is Zarela’s son Aaron Sanchez, Food Network star?” He is giving thanks for his upcoming child and taking care of his wife. We understand but we miss him—and now who is going to make the vegetables?

Our menus tend to be excessive. We are a family of professional cooks and eaters and everyone tries to dazzle. I always make a not-too-sweet and luscious sweet potato casserole, and I always roast the two turkeys. I buy big birds that will hold lots of stuffing, because only the stuffing inside is worth eating. But whether I like it or not, everyone demands that I make pavo borracho: A turkey stuffed with dried fruits that have been macerated in a mixture of orange juice, tequila and Grand Marnier. My sister Aida developed this dish around 1976. The recipe was published in New York magazine around 1987, and every year since I get two or three requests to post it on our website, zarela.com.

You can read the recipe here.

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