Pavochon (Bonus: Stuffing and Gravy)
Updated: Jul 16
The name pavochon refers to pavo (turkey) + lechon (roasted pork) and as the name suggests we take the traditional turkey and we flavor it with some delicious seasonings that are traditionally used for Puerto Rican roasted pork. Now, once you try this recipe you wont want to eat your turkey any other way!
We are adding a bonus recipe here too for a delicious Puerto Rican inspired stuffing!
1 Turkey (we used a 12 lb turkey)
Rub (per each turkey lb):
1 large clove garlic
¼ tsp fresh oregano
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp adobo
1 tsp melted butter
Butter, to coat turkey surface
Aromatic Stuffing for Turkey
1 large onion, quartered
1 whole head of garlic
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs of oregano
1 cubanelle pepper
½ cup butter
2 medium red onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ripe plantains, diced
1 cup squash or calabaza, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
8 oz turkey bacon, chopped
6 cups crusty bread, torn into pieces
6 cups white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 oz capers, chopped
Salt to taste
3/4 cup of turkey fat, skimmed from drippings
3 tbs flour
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups turkey broth
Salt to taste
The first step to making great Pavochon is picking out the right turkey and there are two things you want to keep in mind. First, size. The general rule of thumb is between a pound to a pound and a half of turkey per guest. But if you are like me and love your Thanksgiving leftovers, you might conider bumping that up to about 2 pounds per person -- I mean, you can’t really go wrong with too much leftover turkey.
The second thing to think about when selecting a turkey is whether to buy it fresh or frozen. I’m no turkey snob, but the important thing to keep in mind is that if you buy a frozen turkey, you’ll need to let it fully defrost before you start the brining and cooking process. If you plan to let it thaw in your fridge--it can take a while, up to 24 hours per 5 lbs. So just keep that timing in mind, if you decide to go with a frozen turkey and buy it far enough in advance.
You should aim to have your turkey completely thawed at least 18 hours before you intend to eat it, in order to allow enough time to season and cook it.
So that’s where we will start. The day before your thanksgiving feast, clean your turkey and get it ready to be seasoned.
I find it easiest to do this cleaning process in the sink. You’ll need the water to clean the turkey; and the sink acts as a natural barrier to contain all of the raw turkey juices so you don’t contaminate the rest of your kitchen.
Take your turkey out of its packaging and remove the neck and giblets. Then, give it a quick rinse with water, to flush off all of the packaging liquid.
Once rinsed, wash your turkey with a generous amount of white vinegar, in order to remove any off flavors the turkey may have picked up from your fridge or freezer.
Finally, rinse the vinegar off the turkey so it doesn’t start pickling the meat and transfer your turkey to a large tray, which will need to fit inside of your refrigerator.
Now don’t forget to disinfect your sink after cleaning your turkey. Food poisoning is no joke and doesn’t mix well with a Thanksgiving party.
With your turkey cleaned, lets go ahead and prepare the rub. In a blender, combine the garlic, oregano, melted butter, salt, and adobo, and blend on high until reduced to a thick paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl, for easy access while flavoring the turkey.
Now back to your turkey. The first thing you want to do is pat the turkey dry with paper towel. Any water on the surface of the turkey will just dilute your rub, defeating its purpose. Try to removes as much water as possible from both the turkey and your pan, keeping in mind that you’ll need to disinfect any surfaces that come in contact with those paper towels.
Once your turkey is dried, use your hands separate the turkey’s skin from the meat. This way, you’ll be able to get your seasoning up under the skin, so its directly in contact with the meat. If easier, you can use a spatula for this step.
Next, take half of your garlic mixture and rub it into your turkey meat, under the skin.
Do you best to spread your garlic mixture evenly over the entire bird, including both the breasts and the legs. Use the remaining garlic mixture to coat the outside of the turkey, doing your best to cover all surfaces.
Once you turkey is seasoned, cover it with plastic wrap and put it into your fridge overnight.
Take you turkey out of the refrigerator approximately 4-5 hours before you’ll want to eat, depending on the size. The bigger your turkey, the more time it will take to cook.
In order to maximize the flavor of the meat, we are going to stuff the turkey with some aromatics, including a cubanelle pepper, a head of garlic, an onion, some bay leaves, and some oregano.
Start getting your Turkey ready to cook by taking off any big pieces of garlic sitting on top of the skin. These might burn in the oven, so we just want to pull them off and add them to the turkey cavity.
Next, add your aromatics to the turkey cavity. You may need to cut the bigger items into pieces, in order to get them to fit.
Once you’ve added the aromatics, we want to tie the turkey’s legs together, in order to keep everything in place. Here I’m using butchers twine to tie the legs together tightly. Some turkeys come with a built in fastener, called a hock lock, to keep the legs in place. These are typically oven-safe, so feel free to use that if you’d like.
Once your turkey is tied up, we want to lift it up off the floor of your pan, by adding a rack underneath the turkey. This will keep the bottom of the turkey from getting soggy.
You’re almost there. With your turkey properly situated in the pan, brush the entire surface with melted butter. This will help the skin brown while its in the oven.
Now one last thing before we get the turkey in the oven. This is a trick I learned from Alton Brown, referred to as the turkey triangle. Basically, you want to take a piece of aluminum foil, fold it into a triangle, and then mold it over the turkey breast. The reason for doing this, is that the turkey breast generally cooks faster that the rest of the turkey. So in order to avoid overcooking the turkey breast, we’ll put this piece of foil back on the turkey breast once the skin has browned, in order to shield it a little from the heat. This way, both the white meat and the dark meat will be properly cooked at the same time.
Turn your oven on to 500 degrees farenheit. We’ll cook the turkey at this high temperature for 30 minutes before turning it down to 375 degrees.
While you are waiting for your oven to heat up, add some water to your pan, in order to prevent the fat dripping off of the turkey from burning while in the oven. This will also ensure you have plenty of drippings to use later when making turkey gravy.
As you wait for the oven to heat up, you should also get your thermometer in place. I’m using a probe thermometer, which allows me to monitor the turkey’s temperature the whole time its in the oven. Try to insert your thermometer into the deepest part of the turkey breast, so you are sure you are getting an accurate reading. Then set your thermometer to alert you when the temperature reaches 165. At that temperature, the breast should be fully cooked and ready to eat.
Once your oven is hot, go ahead and add your turkey, without the turkey triangle, and set timer for 30 mins. During this first phase of cooking, make sure to add water from time to time to the bottom of your pan, in order to prevent the drippings from burning. This is particularly important in this first stage, given the higher heat.
Once the 30 minutes are up, turn your oven down to 375. Now go ahead and get your turkey triangle in place. Since you already shaped it, it should be just a matter of putting it back in place.
With the Turkey triangle affixed and your oven set to 375, all you have to do now is wait until your thermometer reads 165. This will take between 10-15 minutes per pound, so give yourself enough time.
With your Turkey cooking in the oven, its a perfect time to start preparing your sides and we are going to show you how to make a great Puerto Rican-themed stuffing, that pairs perfectly with your pavochon.
Start by chopping your onions and garlic into small pieces.
Next, dice your veggies, starting with your squash. We are using calabaza which is traditional in Puerto Rico, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
Then dice your carrots.
Last, peel and dice your ripe plantains. Here I’m using one really ripe plantain, which is almost all black, and one less-ripe plantain that is still mostly yellow. Using plantains at different stages of ripeness allows you to have more variety in your flavors. With the riper plantain providing more sweetness than the less-ripe one.
With your veggies done, dice your turkey bacon.
Now prepare your bread. Some people like to use pre-packaged bread crumbs for their stuffing but I prefer to start with whole loaves of bread for a number of reasons. First, I like to have control over the size of the bread pieces, rather than settling for whatever size I can find at the supermarket. Second, I like to be able to mix different types of breads. Here we are using a loaf of french bread, which has a great crust and holds together well when cooked, along with a loaf of white sandwich bread, which gets much softer, almost creating a glue that holds the stuffing together. And last but not least, I think that fresh bread just tastes better than bread crumbs.
To prepare your bread, just tear it into small pieces, between 1 cubic centimeter and 1 cubic inch. Like I said, a benefit of making your own bread crumbs is that it lets you choose what size you prefer, so feel free to adjust however you like.
After you’ve torn enough pieces of your french bread, go ahead and do the same with your white sandwich bread. If you’d like, you can make your bread crumbs in advance, just store them in a paper bag for 1-2 days.
Okay, now with all your ingredients ready to go, let’s start cooking.
In a large pan, begin by melting your butter. Once your butter is melted, add your onions and garlic and cook until translucent.
Next add your squash, carrots, and plantains and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add your turkey bacon and cook for another 5-8 minutes minutes, or until the squash is cooked.
Once your veggies are cooked, begin adding your bread crumbs. Add about half your bread crumbs and enough broth to fully moisten your stuffing. Stir to fully incorporate and then repeat the process; add the rest of your bread crumbs and more broth to moisten your stuffing.
The amount of broth you will need to add depends on how absorbent your bread is, so just keep adding little by little until it has reached the desired consistency.
Once you are satisfied with the consistency of your stuffing, turn off the heat and add in your chopped cilantro.
Finally, add salt to taste.
Now back to our turkey. Once your thermometer hits 165 degrees, you are ready to take your turkey out of the oven.
Take off the turkey triangle and pull out the thermometer.
Next, cover your turkey in foil and let it rest for 20-25 minutes.
This rest is important for a number of reasons. First, as the meat cools down the proteins will reabsorb any liquid in the meat, resulting in a juicier turkey. Second, a cooler turkey will be easier to handle without burning yourself in the next stage. And finally, letting the turkey rest gives you time to get all of your other sides reheated and ready to go.
Once your turkey is rested, transfer it to the platter you are serving it on. They make commercial turkey tongs, but I find them to be a waste of money and really not that much help. Instead I just like to use a disposable paper plate. Start by tilting you turkey to one side and then slide your paper plate under the turkey. Next tilt the turkey to the other side, and pull your paper plate all the way underneath your turkey. Now, with your paper plate supporting your turkey, its a breeze to move it over to your serving tray.
Once on the serving tray, garnish your turkey however you see fit. Here I’m using some rosemary twigs to line the platter. In addition to looking festive, the rosemary gives off a great aroma to really accentuate the Thanksgiving spirit.
Last but not least, I want to show you how to make an easy, but incredibly delicious gravy to go on your turkey.
As I explained earlier, as your turkey is cooking, you want to make sure to keep adding water to the bottom of the tray. This prevents the drippings from burning, but just as importantly, makes sure you have plenty of liquid in the end for your gravy.
This liquid in the bottom of your turkey tray is a combination of turkey fat, the aromatics we stuffed the turkey with, and the garlicy brine we intitially rubbed the turkey with. And its too delicious to waste.
Start by pouring this liquid into a gravy separator. The drippings consist of two main components, a water-based broth and fat. When making your gravy, you want to cook these two components separately, and the gravy separator helps you do this. Because the fat is less dense than the water, it will float to the surface of the gravy separator and then you can pour off the liquid from the bottom of the separator.
If you don’t have a gravy separator, just pour your drippings into a bowl and then use a spoon or measuring cup to remove the fat from the surface and transfer it to a different bowl.
Once you’ve separated your fat from your broth, start making your gravy. Add your turkey fat to a pan and begin heating it up.Once its hot, go ahead and add your flour and cook until it starts to brown. Next, add your onions and cook until translucent. Finally, add your turkey broth and bring it to a boil.
As your broth begins to boil, your gravy should start to thicken up. If your gravy is too thick, just add a little more broth, until its at the consistency you want.
Check out our instructional video, showing how to make this recipe step-by-step HERE.