Sunday, November 29, 2009


Choose the word that does not belong in the following sentence.

Adjectives that describe Thanksgiving stuffing include starchy, mushy, meaty.

Meaty? Yes. This stuffing features meat. My Titi Janet has made this stuffing for Thanksgiving for years, and it has always been a family favorite. I have never tasted anything like it. I had to have it this year, and since she was not going to be flying out to California to make it for me, I had to take matters into my own hands. Janet emailed me the recipe, and I attempted to make it just the way she does.

I ran into one problem. I could not find one of the ingredients. This is some intense stuffing, people. It is not for sissies. I am pretty sure the ingredient list is the longest of anything I have ever made. Anyway, I could not find something called "Goya's jamon de cocinar en polvo" (oh yes, my Aunt Janet is from the Puerto Rican side of my family). Aside from being on the the list she sent me, I knew it existed only because I googled it. I went to about 4 different grocery stores (3 of which specialize in Hispanic foods), and no one had it or knew what it was. I know what each of those Spanish words mean in English (thank you Sra. Ajo); the literal translation would be "ham to cook in dust." I went ahead and took it as ham powder so I substituted a food that I thought would add just as much flavor, a food I have never regretted adding to any dish: bacon.

I cut this recipe in half since it was just for two, but I still had enough for about 8 servings. There are usually about 15 to 20 people at our Thanksgiving dinners so I would venture to guess this serves about that with leftovers. I suppose it is not technically stuffing because you do not cook it inside the turkey, but here it goes:

Titi Janet's "Will Leave You Seriously Stuffed" Stuffing:

3 – 4 lbs ground beef
½ to 1 c of cooking wine (I used a red table wine since I always have some on hand)
1 head of Garlic cloves
1 Onion
1 Bell pepper
3 packages of “Goya's jamon de cocinar en polvo” (Goya is the brand)*
3 packages of “Goya's Sazón con Azafrán” (Goya is the brand)
1 slice of cooking ham (with the bone) cut in ½” squares (I just bought some already diced ham)
1 bunch of fresh cilantro (chopped as fine as possible)
1 envelope of dry onion soup
2 cups (or to taste) of raisins (I copped them up really small since Zach hates when they bloat up. This made it so you could still taste them, but you don't get the soft soggy raisin texture when they are cooked)
2 cups (or to taste) of chopped pecans
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup of capers
1 cup of pitted stuffed olives or to taste
1/2 bag of “Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing” (dry stuff)

*The Goya products are usually in the ethnic section of the grocery store"

Pour a bit of olive oil in a pot (so that the meat does not stick to the bottom when you start cooking). Cut the ham in cubes. Place the ground beef in the pot and cook until almost all brown making sure to mix the ground beef so that it does not “clump-up” while it cooks.
In a food processor or blender throw the cooking wine, black pepper, garlic, onion, bell pepper, Goya powders. Blend all together and pour in the meat with the dry onion soup and cilantro. If you do not have a food processor or blender, just chop the produce really fine.
Add the olives and capers, and continue to cook on medium for about 10-15 minutes.
Add the raisins, chopped pecans nd stuffing (mix well).
Continue cooking for another 10 minutes. The stuffing should absorb the “water/oil” from the beef while cooking.

Important note from Titi Janet: You will have to figure out the ratio between stuffing and ground beef. Just make sure it has the meat consistency more than the stuffing (mushy) consistency, but yet it is semi-mushy! And is more meaty than stuffing.

Important note from me: This turned out well for me. The bacon substitute seems to work out. I was nervous about making it and then not recognizing the taste as the same thing because it is indeed an extremely specific taste. I know it when I smell it! The part I struggled with here was since I was doing a bunch of things at one time, I think I let the meat cook too long without adding the rest of the ingredients. I think this caused it to dry out a little bit. It is important that everything stays really moist so that when you add the stuffing mixture, it has a lot of moisture to absorb.

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