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Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: La Fiesta del Pavo Borracho (The Drunken Turkey Party)

September 27, 2009 by Joan Nova in Family-Size Meals, Food Challenge, Holidays, Mexican + Southwestern, Nuevo Latino, Party Menus, Poultry, Side Dishes | 25 Comments

The guests ‘may’ be sober, but the bird is definitely juiced! It arrives with a few cups of tequila and Grand Marnier in its belly.

This recipe goes back a long way with me. In fact, it goes back to October 24, 1983 when I ripped it out of New York Magazine. I’ve moved 4 or 5 times since then; however, this yellowed and food-stained copy of Zarela Martinez’ Drunken Turkey recipe managed to stick with me. [Zarela attributes the recipe to her sister, Aida.] What makes this recipe really special is that you cook the turkey in a roasting bag with dried and fresh fruit, tequila, Grand Marnier and chilies. The result is a deliciously moist bird with a unique stuffing.

For those of you who don’t know Zarela, she is a popular restauranteur in NY with a restaurant of the same name on Second Avenue. Back when I was living and working in NY, I went to her restaurant often. I even hired her to cater a Christmas party for the firm I worked for  (a long, long time ago). Some of you may be familiar with her son, Aaron Sanchez, who is pretty hot right now on FoodTV judging ‘Chopped’ and co-starring in ‘Chef vs. The City’. He is also the owner of Paladar on Ludlow Street in NY which my friends affectionately call “the Mojito place.” It’s one of my must-stops whenever I’m visiting.

In the early days, Drunken Turkey almost became a holiday tradition around my house — everyone loved it so! I know for a fact that I made it Christmas ’92, Christmas ’93 and Thanksgiving ’94 because I kept a holiday journal. And, I’m sure I’ve made it other times. My niece, who hosts a lot of our family parties these days, has also made it several times…but neither of us had done it in a while. When given the opportunity to do it for FoodBuzz 24, 24, 24*, we were excited to create a great Mexican Fiesta around our pavo borracho.

Ándale a la Fiesta (Let’s go to the party!)


margaritaAppetizers: Margaritas, Macho Nachos, Chips + Dips, Sliced Chorizo and Pan de Queso Mini Sandwiches, Mole-Seasoned Toasted Almonds

Entree: Drunken Turkey, Casserole of Baked Cheesy Yellow Rice w/Poblanos + Corn, Patatas Bravas (spicy baked potatoes), Black Bean Salad with Plantain Citrus Salsa, Garbanzo Salad with Chorizo, Olives, Capers and Ensalada Grande (avocados, hearts of palm, tomatillos, olives, onions, etc.)

Postre (Dessert): Arroz con Leche (Spanish Rice Pudding)


The guests were  4 generations of our immediate family and a couple of in-laws (not pictured). My niece and co-chef, Teri, is in the third photo with her mom. She’s the one with the red apron.*

family collage

Grab a margarita and a place setting, dip a chip, and join us for the fiesta.


Our festive place setting.

macho nachosMacho Nachos
Mole-Seasoned Almonds
chips dips
Chips + Dips
Mini Chorizo Sandwich
Sliced Chorizo + Pan de Queso

turkey 1

The turkey and tequila/Grand Marnier-infused fruit ‘stuffing’. Things got a little chaotic and the bird got sliced before I was able to catch it coming out of its roasting bag, but you can see how surprisingly brown it gets even though it is roasted in a bag.

IMG_1007 I set several of each of these bean salads down the long dinner table.
Black Bean Salad with Plantain Citrus Salsa
Patatas Bravas (before the alioli drizzle)
IMG_1004Casserole of Baked Cheesy Yellow Rice w/Poblanos + Corn
ensaladaEnsalada Grande
rice pudding
Rice Pudding

Thank you to FoodBuzz for creating this fun challenge for its members and their readers. FoodBuzz is a San Francisco-based online community of some 10,000 food bloggers worldwide. They aggregate, organize and curate more 1 million blog posts and provide a platform for both bloggers and food brands.  Their 24, 24, 24 event showcases posts (like this) from 24 of their featured publishers  (like me) monthly. The deal is 24 publishers create 24 unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. The 24 posts are currently being submitted and will be viewable for a month at

* Recipes can be found on a separate webpage I created for this event.

*photo collage taken from photos Christmas ’08.

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Ivy says:

    Great party. Yum. I’m feeling stuffed just looking at these pictures.Everything looks fantastic.

  2. Liz says:

    What a terrific fiesta! I haven’t thought about drunken turkey in years, but it was always so good.

  3. great idea for a 24, 24, 24. Glad to see you were sober enough to write a post–j/k.

  4. Peter G says:

    Phew! I’m exhausted just looking at it! Looks sensational Joan…and that turkey recipe really sounds unique. My favourite side would have to be the cheesy yellow rice with corn…glorious!

  5. Norma says:

    I have had this before at Zarela’s…yours looks much better….Miss cooking with you…Hiccup!

  6. Erica says:

    Wow! I love every dish!!!! Fantastic Fiesta:)

  7. Buela says:

    What a lucky familia,
    I hope you had them all walking the community after dinner!

  8. What an amazing feast! And the drunken turkey sounds fanastic, what a great recipe! Excellent 24, 24, 24 post!

  9. Núria says:

    OMG Joan!!! Congrats for the 24, 24, 24 :D. You made a different, interesting and digesting post ;D

    How many green salads did you eat after the Big Feast? I also love the title of the recipe. AWESOME!

  10. Diana says:

    Joan, I had no idea you also had a 24 post! Beautiful!!! I love how you fused Spanish and Mexican dishes. I want to be invited next time ;)

  11. emiglia says:

    Wow, what an awesome idea! I can’t imagine how that turkey tasted with all that tequila and Grand Marnier… I bet it was amazing!

  12. Wow, Joan! What an amazing feast! Everything looks superb! :)

  13. Peter says:

    Joan, congrats on a delicious 24_dinner! Chorizo makes everything tastier but booze in a turkey comes a close second too!

  14. Jeff says:

    I agree with Peter in booze makes everything taste better. Heck if the food sucks (which I have thrown a couple parties where the food blew) I find it is best to pour stronger drinks.

    That is one beautifully browned turkey even for a bag. I am use to the bland blonde turkeys that mom makes.

  15. Juliana says:

    Wow, everything look so yummie, what a feast you all had…so much fun!

  16. An amazing feast Joan!!!

  17. Holly says:

    It looked like a blast (as most of your family get togethers do)

  18. Lidia Lipstick says:

    Joan, I made Drunken Turkey several years ago and my sister-in-law Georgie still says it was the best Turkey she ever had. I think I’ll do it again this year, it’s time.

  19. sippitysup says:

    I just knew you could throw a party and this was a killer party! GREG

  20. OMG, drool city! I would’ve liked to be at that party! =)

  21. Joy says:

    MMmm this looks delicious, if only I could’ve been there to enjoy the feast. I love love LOVE mexican food. Great post!

  22. bellini says:

    We have all grown in our writing and our photography skills over all these years of blogging Joan. Everything here is still relevant. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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  1. […] Party. My niece and I have partnered up before to throw a party, like when we did the Drunken Turkey Party a couple of months ago. Her house works really well for a party because of the ebb and flow of […]

  2. […] However, there are a few that I’ve relied on and have carried with me every time I moved. Drunken Turkey is one. This is […]

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