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Mexican Thanksgiving

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Stuffed Roast Suckling Pig  

Zarela Martínez and Aarón Sánchez
Chef-owner, Zarela, and Chef-owner, Centrico and Paladar

Zarela Martínez started sharing her Thanksgiving kitchen with her son, Aarón Sánchez, when he was 12 years old. “He took over the duty of carving the turkey but made a terrible mess—I had to salvage the bird,” says Martínez. The mother-son team’s Thanksgiving menu is a happier collaboration, combining Martínez’s homey regional Mexican cooking, which she practices at her eponymous restaurant, Zarela, and Sánchez’s Nuevo Latino, which he turns out at Centrico and Paladar. Instead of roasting a turkey, Martínez serves up a whole suckling pig—the big-celebration dish of choice in much of Latin America. She rubs her little porker with a smoky guajillo-chile marinade and stuffs it with a mixture of diced apples, pineapple, tomatoes, green olives, and Mexican oregano. Sánchez adds another Latino ingredient—chorizo—to Brussels sprouts. “Brussels sprouts are great little sponges; they take on the richness of the chorizo really well,” he says. Instead of a squash purée, Sánchez prefers the texture of large chunks of roasted calabaza, a West Indian pumpkin. Finally, says Martínez, “I don’t like pies—the crust is too hard to make.” Her solution? A pumpkin cheesecake, flavored, of course, with canela, a Mexican cinnamon.

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Stuffed Roast Suckling Pig
Brussels Sprouts With Chorizo
Roasted Calabaza
Savory Corn Bread
Pumpkin Cheesecake

Stuffed Roast Suckling Pig
CHILE MARINADE
8 ounces guajillo chiles (about 30)
1 2-inch piece canela (Mexican cinnamon)
12 black peppercorns
10 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
2 tablespoons dried avocado leaves (available from Kalustyan’s) or 1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
10 large sprigs fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
8 large garlic cloves
4 tablespoons cider vinegar

Wash and griddle-dry the chiles, being careful not to burn them. As they are done, place them in a large deep bowl, cover generously with boiling water, and soak for at least 20 minutes. Drain, and remove stems only when cool enough to handle.

Blend all marinade ingredients in batches until puréed, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of water to facilitate blending, but the mixture should remain thick and pasty.

STUFFING
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 small onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium-ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 medium-size pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 1/2 firm, tart green apples, peeled, cored, and cut into -inch dice
2 medium-size carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 large red bliss or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup dark raisins
cup small pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 1/2 canned pickled jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced, plus 3 tablespoons of the pickling juice
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground canela
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning the pig
6 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a deep skillet, heat the oil at medium high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the tomatoes and stir for 5 minutes, until the juices have evaporated slightly. Stir in the remaining ingredients, reduce the heat to medium, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring often. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

SUCKLING PIG
1 suckling pig, about 12 to 15 pounds (available at dartagnan.com; orders must be placed at least a week ahead of time)
Salt and black pepper
2 cups orange juice (optional)

Season the pig inside and out with salt and pepper, then slather the chile marinade thickly over the pig, inside and out, and marinate in a large plastic bag, refrigerated, overnight or for at least 4 hours. Allow the pig to come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Fill the pig with the cooled stuffing, and close the opening with skewers or stitch with string.

If not using the optional orange juice, arrange the pig in a large roasting pan on all fours, and roast for approximately 3 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 160 degrees. Reduce heat to 200, and let the pig rest at this temperature for 15 minutes or until ready to serve (but no longer than 40 minutes). If using the orange juice, lay the pig on one side and pour the juice over it. Roast as directed above, but baste occasionally with the juice and turn the pig onto its other side halfway through cooking. If the liquid seems to be evaporating too rapidly, add 1/4 cup of water at a time to the pan juices.

Carve the pig. Arrange the stuffing on a serving platter with the carved meat on top. If enough orange juice is left in the roasting pan to serve as gravy, strain it and skim off the fat; pass separately in a gravy bowl.


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