Spice up the holidays | NevadaAppeal.com

Spice up the holidays

Marialisa Calta
United Features Syndicate
Caption: A spicy, flavorful Mexican fruit mole sauce adds a bit of zip to the same-old, same-old holiday dinner, without upsetting the traditionalists -- at least not too much. Credit: Photograph by Frances Janisch for "Daisy's Holiday Cooking" by Daisy Martinez with Chris Styler (Atria Books, 2010)

The holidays are trying times for adventurous cooks. The urge to experiment on the culinary front collides head on with hard-wired family traditions. If your tribe is expecting that green-bean casserole – you know, the one with those crunchy French’s fried onions – you will face mutiny if you try to substitute a dish of haricot verts Lyonnaise. At the holidays, people will fight to the death to make sure that Aunt Sue’s mincemeat pie is on the table, even though no one actually likes it.

If you just can’t ignore the urge to innovate, try something new with the condiments. It is possible to sneak in an exotic relish without creating profound familial rifts.

I got this idea while thumbing through a new book, “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking” (Atria Books, 2010) by Daisy Martinez, the TV chef whose recipes reflect her Latina heritage. Martinez suggests a complex fruit mole (“MOH-lay) to go with the turkey.

Aside from incredible, complex flavor, this recipe has two additional bonuses: First, it can be made up to three days ahead of time; and second, it makes enough to use for a leftover turkey sandwich. Simply warm cooked, shredded turkey in the sauce, and use as a filling for soft tortillas, crispy tacos or enchiladas. The only negative is that you have to find ancho chili paste (try http://www.mexgrocer.com) or make your own. Recipes are abundant online.

While you are at it, you might experiment with a spicy Mexican rub on the turkey itself. Or maybe not. Those traditionalists will have your head.


2 ripe medium plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 cup ancho chili paste

6 cups chicken broth, or as needed

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, with juice

1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

4 ounces dried apricots, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

kosher or fine sea salt

Core the tomatoes, and cut them in half lengthwise. Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until charred on most of both sides, about eight minutes. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring often, until it just begins to take on some color, about eight minutes. Add the oregano, and continue cooking until the onion is lightly browned, about three minutes. Stir in the cumin, then the ancho paste. Keep stirring and cooking until the onion is coated with the chili paste. Stir in the 6 cups broth, and heat to boiling, then slip in the charred tomatoes. Adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering, and cook until the onion is tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in small batches to avoid splattering, puree the sauce base until smooth in a blender or food processor. Rinse out the skillet.

Return the sauce to the skillet. Stir in the pineapple and juice, the mango, apricots, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger and pepper. Season lightly with salt, and bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened (enough to coat a spoon) and takes on a nice shine, about 20 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, add small amounts of broth as needed. Cool, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use (up to three days). Warm gently before serving.

Yield: 7 cups

Recipe from “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking” by Daisy Martinez with Chris Styler (Atria Books, 2010)


1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon achiote (annatto) seeds

4 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

Heat the olive oil and the achiote seeds in a small skillet set over low heat until the seeds are sizzling and the oil begins to darken. Let the seeds sizzle for one minute, then strain the oil into a small heatproof bowl. With a garlic press, press the garlic cloves into the oil. Stir in the salt and the peppercorns, and let cool to room temperature.

To use: With your fingers, working gently, loosen as much skin as you can on the turkey breast, legs and back. Again, using your fingers, rub the mixture as evenly as you can directly on the meat and in the cavity. Rub any extra over the outside of the turkey. Roast the turkey as you usually do.

Yield: enough rub for a 12- to 14-pound turkey

Recipe from “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking” by Daisy Martinez with Chris Styler (Atria Books, 2010)

Marialisa Calta is the author of “Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the American Family” (Perigee, 2005). For more information, go to http://www.marialisacalta.com.