I’m not a turkey lover. That’s the truth. And working at Gourmet has exposed me to more turkey than is humanly fair. In fact, I volunteered to develop a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu this year, but somehow I got bamboozled into more turkey.
Fortunately, it turned out to be a lot of fun: I was charged with creating recipes for our Latino-themed Thanksgiving menu, “Come Together.” I’ve traveled in Peru and Mexico, and I did a lot of research for Gourmet’s September 2007 Latino issue, so I was familiar with the Latin pantry; now it was a question of applying those wonderful ingredients to the Thanksgiving table.
For this menu, I originally wanted to do a Cuban-inspired rice and picadillo stuffing studded with olives and raisins (picadillo is a classic mixture of ground meat and tomatoes, garlic, onions, peppers, and more). But when we tasted it in the test kitchen, it just wasn’t working. It didn’t pop. So we started to rethink the dish. Someone suggested chorizo, which everyone thought would be delicious—and it seemed like a perfect fit with corn bread. As the conversation continued, however, the idea of arepa flour came up: Arepas, fried cornmeal cakes from Colombia, are a favorite of ours, so what if we made a giant arepa and then crumbled it up to make a stuffing? It seemed like such a fun approach.
So I set about making a big arepa, flavored with some fresh mozzarella to mimic the traditional queso fresco. But the gigantic arepa looked so cool, I didn’t have the heart to tear it up for stuffing. And we all know that there would be mutiny if stuffing was absent from a Thanksgiving menu. I tried crumbling the arepa, but it turned out to be too heavy for stuffing—so in the end, that first great idea prevailed, and I went with traditional corn bread and chorizo. This stuffing is delicious, a perfect addition to your holiday tradition. And you’ll be seeing that fabulous arepa in Gourmet’s pages sometime in the future, too.