This turkey recipe from Carlos Perez, executive chef of @ the Corner in Litchfield, makes the traditional stuffed bird a bit less, well, stuffy. "It brings a bit of old-world tradition with new-world flair and inspiration from different ethnicities," says Carlos. "I think that’s the best thing about the holidays, being able to all come together and mingle."

Mole Rubbed Roast Turkey with fig cornbread stuffing and cranberry jalapeño glaze Chef Carlos Perez (2).jpg

Mole-rubbed roast turkey with fig cornbread stuffing and cranberry-jalapeño glaze

INGREDIENTS

For the turkey

  • D’Artagnan Green Circle turkey, 10-12 pounds
  • 2 sticks butter

Mole rub

  • 2 tablespoons dried ancho chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1½ tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Fig cornbread stuffing

  • 9-inch-square homemade or store-bought cornbread
  • 4 slices white bread, preferably stale, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups roasted corn
  • 1 cup quartered figs
  • 1 quart turkey broth, or chicken if turkey is unavailable
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Cranberry-jalapeño glaze

  • 8 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of clove
  • ½ jalapeño, minced
  • 1½ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS

Make the mole rub

1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and thoroughly mix together.

Make the stuffing

2Crumble cornbread and toss with cubed bread.

3. Melt half the butter in a large pan over medium heat.

4. Add onion, celery, corn and figs. Continue to cook over medium heat until the onion turns translucent and begins to soften. Pour over cornbread mixture.

5. Melt the remaining butter and mix with the turkey broth, eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, sage and parsley. Pour mixture over cornbread mixture and stir to combine.

Make the glaze

6. Combine cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, jalapeño, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat.

7. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes until the cranberries burst and the mixture starts to slightly reduce.

8. Dissolve cornstarch in the remaining half-cup of water. Reduce the heat to medium low and slowly stream in cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, approximately 2 minutes.

9. Remove from heat and cool.

Put it together

10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

11. Melt butter in a sauce pan and set aside.

12. Take the giblets out of the turkey, and thoroughly wash inside and out. Pat dry and place in a large roasting pan. Stuff the inside cavity with fig cornbread stuffing. Brush the outside of the turkey with the melted butter, then the mole rub.

13. Tie legs together with string and tuck wing tips under the body of the turkey.

14. Roast the turkey for about 2½ hours, reducing temperature to 350 after the first 40 minutes. Juices should run clear when a cut is made between the leg and thigh. Approximately 15 minutes per pound.

15. Tent with aluminum, allow to rest for 20 minutes. Carve and serve topped with cranberry-jalapeño glaze.


Q&A with Chef Carlos Perez

Chef Carlos Perez (4).jpg

Carlos Perez, executive chef of @ the Corner in Litchfield

How did you first get into cooking?

I started off baking around 8 years old, following recipes my mother had shown me and beginning to experiment by myself. I developed such a passion for it that by the age of 12 I was knocking on the door of our local French bakery begging for a job.

What’s your fondest memory of a holiday meal?

As a child, I’d wake up super early to start cooking the entire meal, and the table would be covered with dozens of dishes by mid-afternoon. Nowadays I’m just grateful to get some time to rest.

Tips on using local ingredients in holiday meals?

I source local as frequently as possible. Tons of farms work year round and have a bounty of wonderful products come holiday season, from jams, jellies, maple syrup and honey, to beef, turkey and chicken. Check the state website for all our local farms: portal.ct.gov/doag/marketing/marketing/find-a-farmer

When preparing a holiday feast, is it better to be a traditionalist or an innovator?

I’m an innovator by heart. I believe that everyone has experienced many of the traditional holiday dishes. As a chef, if I’m able to open up someone’s palate to something new and exciting, I’m going to take every opportunity to do that. Besides, food is ever changing, what really is traditional, anyway?

Carlos Perez on Instagram: @chefcarlosperez

This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.