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.
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."