A Recipe for Thanksgiving

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In Cuba, the guanajo, or wild turkey, is much revered. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we thought it appropriate to share with you an old recipe for "Guanajo Relleno," or "Stuffed Wild Turkey."

The guanajo is a wild turkey and has rich, dark meat. The meat can also be a little tougher and requires longer, slower cooking for tenderness.

This recipe comes from the cookbook, Nuevo manual del cocinero cubano y español by J.P. Legran, published in 1864. A special edition of the cookbook will be re-released in print by Durham-based publisher, Light Messages, with a foreword by Old Havana's very own Roberto Copa Matos.

Guanajo relleno

Quitadas la tripas, limpio y despues de cocido, píquese bien todas las menudencias que haya tenido dentro con caldo compuesto de migas de pan cocido con nata, un cuarteron de manteca empella, perejil, cebollinos, sal, pimienta y tres yemas de huevos, rellénese todo el interior con esta masa, cubriendola con migas de pan; humedezcase con manteca derretida; vuélvase á empapar otra vez désele color en el horno, pudiendo servirse á la mesa con la salsa mas agrade.

Stuffed Wild Turkey

Having removed, cleaned, and cooked the insides; finely chop the insides and add to a broth made from coarse breadcrumbs cooked with cream, a 1/4 pound of cracklins (no skin), parsley, green onions, salt, peper and three egg yolks. Fill the inside with this mixture, covering the opening with breadcrumbs and moistening with melted lard. Repeat this step. Cook the turkey in an oven until it has color. You can serve this with the sauce that appeals to you.


Several things call our attention in this recipe from 1800s Cuba. One is the similarity to the American style of stuffed Thanksgiving turkey, adapted to Cuban ingredients. The other is the prolific use of cracklins and lard––of that we highly approve!

If you're an avid cook, you'll likely notice the lack of details in the recipe. Nowhere does the author, J.P. Legran, tell you at what temperature to cook the bird or for how long, nor does he tell you how much of each seasoning to use. We must remember the historical context of this recipe. At the time of its publication, there were no modern ovens with thermostats and dials. Most ovens would have been wood fired and required constant monitoring.

This recipe is intended to provide a general concept and process, but it is based on the assumption that the cook is experienced enough to know how to balance the seasoning and make necessary adjustments.  This is one detail that appeals to us as cooks.We are left free to adapt and play as we feel fit. J.P. Legran, however, gives a lovely starting point.

So this Thanksgiving, when you're looking to do something a little differently, why not add a few cracklins to your stuffing or use lard instead of butter on your Turkey? Here's a little musical inspiration while you prepare your "Guanajo Relleno."


Last Updated on Monday, 19 November 2012 14:53

Interview with Cuban Artist Richar

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Richar, also known as Ricardo Reyes Ramos, is not only one of the favorite artists on display at Old Havana, but he's also a very close friend. Recently, Roberto interviewed Richar about his work and influences.

Richar's favored medium is drawing. He calls himself, loosely, a humorist, but his more recent work has taken on a feel of "high art" instead of comics, while retaining the whimsy and levels of meaning common to humorist art. Richar started on his current style by drawing bulls, which have been exhibited in Cuba, Denmark, and the US. Given that Durham is the Bull City, we think Richar should be right at home talking to us.

Richar's artistic ability also goes beyond the pen and paper. He is currently in Denmark working on a sculpture with a group of Cuban artists. While Richar will be the first to tell you that the cold is an extra challenge for the tropical artists, you'll never hear him complain.

The interview posted here, and available on youtube, took place in Spanish, via Skype. We've included subtitles for English speakers. Richar's art pieces are displayed in the video with his permission.


Last Updated on Monday, 19 November 2012 14:42

Bienvenidos | Welcome

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Welcome to Manteca, a Cuban arts and culture blog sponsored by Old Havana Sandwich Shop in Durham, NC.

In addition to serving the best possible Cuban sandwiches, one of our missions is to use our restaurant as a platform to share Cuban culture with our neighbors. This blog is one more outlet for that mission.

Here, we will feature articles, recipes, photos, and news by Old Havana owners, Roberto Copa Matos and Elizabeth Turnbull, as well as by Cubans living in Cuba and around the world. We're honored to have as part of Manteca, talent such as Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo from La Habana, Ricardo Reyes Ramos from Santa Clara, and Gonzalo Fernandez from Raleigh.

The name for our blog comes from the song Manteca, made famous by Cuban musician Chano Pozo and Jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. Given that we specialize in slow roasted pork, the name is doubly appropriate–no crees?


Last Updated on Monday, 19 November 2012 14:41