Try this recipe of Turkey a la Dominicana Stuffed with Rice and Pigeon Peas and serve an exquisitely seasoned, impossibly juicy, meat. A traditional dish rediscovered and improved.
It used to be that turkey was a big part of our holiday celebrations, and while never as popular as pork, I have to say that our Turkey a la Dominicana is most certainly firmly steeped in tradition. There's even a couple of old carols that mention it.
Somewhere along the way, turkey became an uncommon dish. We think of it more as a U.S. tradition, and our Puerco Asado remains king as the centerpiece of our holiday feasts. Even chicken is more common nowadays.
My grandparents used to have turkeys on their farm. They certainly didn't look like the kind of turkey we buy in supermarkets nowadays. They were scraggly, skinny birds. The meat was lean, flavorful but tough, as is the usual with free-range animals.
This is why the Dominican style of seasoning and marinating for a long time works so wonderfully with this meat. It works not unlike the traditional U.S. method of brining, only that this infuses the meat with some very strong flavors, and tenderizes it a whole lot more.
I'm going to surprise you with what I'll say next...
I was never that inspired to add a recipe for a Christmas turkey in our blog. I really don't know why. Or maybe I do. I thought turkey was an uninspiring meat: dry, flavorless.
I know, I know. I am now duly chastised.
About this recipe
Let me tell you something: I am so incredibly proud of this recipe. It worked like a charm, and I've never changed my mind about a food so dramatically since transitioning from a kid who hated eggplant to an adult who can never have enough of it. No turkey I've ever had before measures up to this one.
This Turkey a la Dominicana stuffed with Rice and Pigeon Peas is incredibly flavorful, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, unexpectedly juicy, and the rice inside soaked all the runaway flavors, so it was just like an explosion of flavors. I ate this with gusto. I bet you will too.
You'll notice we'll cook half of the rice fully, and leave half of the rice partially-uncooked. The latter will finish cooking inside the turkey, and absorb a lot of the flavors of the seasoning, and the turkey itself. Personally, I love all the flavor in the stuffing, but some may find it a bit overpowering, so you have some extra rice to mix it with, if that were your case.
Pavo a la Dominicana Recipe (Turkey Stuffed with Rice and Pigeon Peas)
For Moro de Guandules
- 1 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of finely chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon mashed garlic
- 1 cubanelle pepper, , chopped
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1½ cups of boiled green pigeon peas
- 2 cups of rice
For turkey seasoning
- 1 small red onion, , chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of capers
- 3 tablespoons of salt
- 1 small bunch of parsley
- Juice of a lime
- ¼ cubanelle pepper, , chopped
- ½ tablespoon of freshly-cracked pepper
- One 9 lb [4 kg] unbrined turkey, , thawed
- 1 tablespoon of browning, (affiliate link)
- ⅓ cup of butter, , at room temperature, divided
For moro de guandules
- Sauteing seasoning: Heat the oil in a ½ gal [2 lt] iron pot over medium heat, and add the cilantro, garlic, peppers, oregano, and salt and cook and stir for a minute. Add the peas, also while stirring. Once well heated, add 1¼ cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Cooking rice: Stir in rice and simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly and removing as much as you can of the rice that sticks to the bottom. When all the water has evaporated set aside half of the rice (still not fully cooked!) to stuff the turkey, and cover the pot with the remaining rice with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat.
- Finish cooking: Simmer for 20 minutes. Move the rice from the bottom to the top so it cooks uniformly. Cover again and simmer for another 5 minutes. Uncover and taste for doneness. The rice should be firm but tender inside. If necessary, cover and simmer another 5 minutes over very low heat. Spoon into a serving bowl and keep covered until it's time to serve.
For turkey seasoning
Making the seasoning: Mix the ingredients for the seasoning and blend in the food processor to obtain a coarse paste.
How to make Dominican Christmas turkey
- Separate skin: Slowly work your hand between the skin and the turkey meat, making sure not to pierce through the skin, separating as much as possible all the way down to the legs and neck (we're no skinning the turkey, just making space to rub seasoning under the skin).
Seasoning the turkey: With a sharp knife carve 4 small holes into each side of the breast meat (don't pierce the skin!) and stuff them with the seasoning. Rub the rest of the seasoning under the turkey skin and inside the cavity. Place the turkey in a lidded container and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Heating oven: Heat the oven at 325 ºF [160 ºC].
- Prepare for roasting: Remove the turkey from the fridge. Spread ¾ of the butter under the skin. Stuff the holes you carved with some butter, set aside the rest. Mix browning and 2 tablespoons of water. Paint all over the skin with the browning. Stuff the turkey with the partially-cooked rice.
Tying with twine: Place on a baking tray with a wire rack [Amazon affiliate link (see notes)]. Pull the skin to cover the turkey all over. Tie the legs with twine. Tie the wings tight against the skin by wrapping twine around the turkey. Then brush all over with butter, save the remaining butter for use later.
- Roasting: Roast the turkey for 2½ hours, brushing all the exposed skin with butter every half hour.
- Check for doneness: Once the 2½ hours have passed, test the turkey breast with a meat thermometer. It should have reached 165 °F [74 ºC] when you hit the bone. You should also test inside the leg where it hits the ribs. If it hasn't reached that temperature, cook for another 20 minutes, and test again. If you don't have a meat thermometer, stab inside the thigh al the way to the bone, it is done if the juices run clear, and there's no sign of blood or pink meat. Cook for another 20 minutes, if necessary, and test again.
- Serving: Once done, remove from the oven and cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let it rest for 20 minutes before serving. Serve alongside the rice you cooked aside. When it's time to eat mix the rice stuffing with the rest of the rice.