Hey, Ya Wanna Smoke a Turkey?

2006.Dec.25 Monday · 8 comments

in Food & Recipes, Life

“The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise”

– Benjamin Franklin, Statesman, Scientist, Philosopher, Inventor

Buenos Aires – I’m not catholic. I’m not christian. But I grew up in a neighborhood where most folks were. I remember christmas eve being a relatively quiet time – families and friends gathering, having small holiday parties, music playing, kids out in the snow, laughter – it wasn’t silent, but it wasn’t noisy. Twenty some years in New York seemed much the same. So what’s the deal here in Buenos Aires (and apparently other places – Sara up in Costa Rica reports a similar experience – with firecrackers and fireworks for christmas eve? I’m not talking about the random kid playing on the block who lets off a couple of small crackers. I’m talking about a full scale, all out assault on the senses. There were scattered snaps, crackles, and pops throughout the evening, somewhere around 9 or 9:30 p.m. they began to grow in frequency, quantity, and intensity. By the time midnight was reached, we could have been in downtown Baghdad on one of GWB’s bad hair days… It was deafening. I ask you, just exactly what does the birth of some middle eastern carpenter who went on to conquer the world post-mortem have to do with firecrackers? The sensorial pounding continued until 2 a.m., when it strangely, and miraculously (hey, I had to work in a miracle, no?) just stopped. Completely. Not a boom to be heard, and didn’t hear one the rest of the night. In fact, it’s eerily quiet this morning…

And that’s a good thing, because seven of us had polished off pretty much an entire eleven pound turkey, and I needed sleep. I’m convinced that I will never go back to a turkey simply tossed, willy-nilly, into the oven and roasted until dry as dust. Turkey on the parrilla is a juicy, wonderous thing to eat, with deep smoky flavors. I’ve had several Argentine friends contact me, convinced that it’s not possible (you’d think they’d be the first to support the use of a parrilla for anything!), unless you cut the turkey up first. They simply don’t believe it will cook through completely. I’ll admit, the little red popup button never popped – same back on thanksgiving. But, I don’t know what internal temperature it’s meant to pop at. What I know, is you put the turkey, whole (don’t stuff it, I’ve been warned that the stuffing won’t cook through), and just sprinkled with some coarse salt inside and out, on one side of the parrilla, away from the coals. Then you close the lid and walk away. About an hour an a half into it, I opened the lid and turned the turkey around 180° and then left it an hour longer, adding in some corn on the cob still in the husks at about the half hour point. At that point, the internal temp was about 155°F, which is basically verging on medium well. The one thing about the parrilla is that it doesn’t brown the turkey evenly or deeply, mostly because, I suppose, the upper side of the turkey is facing away from the heat source. So I throw it in a heated oven, with the convection fan going (if you have one), on high heat, for about 15-20 minutes, turning it a quarter turn every five minutes so it browns deeply and relatively evenly. By the time I took it out of the oven, it had hit just over 160°F internally – which as far as I’m concerned, is more than done enough. I presented it, carved it, pulled the husks off the corn and slathered them with butter, lemon juice, and salt, we had giblet gravy, deviled eggs, salad, and a variety of desserts (everyone contributed something – a nice change!)… and feasted.

Starting the turkey on the grill
The turkey lands on the grill…

The turkey and corn finishing up on the grill
Done grilling, along with some corn…

The turkey after a little oven browning
Finished browning in the oven…

And, of course, people to enjoy xmas eve dinner
Hungry guests ready to eat…

And lest some of you think I’m exaggerating about the firecrackers…

“South America”
Jenna’s Adventures in Paraguay
On the Road Travel
And yes, I DO take it personally

And before yet another person asks… yes, turkeys are available here. The domesticated turkey is raised in places scattered all over the world, including in South America. I bought it at the supermarket. There were dozens of them available, and the same at any supermarket I’ve seen here. They’re frozen, they have little popup timers stuck in them, everything we’re used to back home. I can even order one fresh through one of the local butchers. They do tend to be smaller than the ones I grew up around – I haven’t seen one larger than about 13 or 14 pounds, and generally they’re more like 10-11.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

dan December 25, 2006 at 12:09

Took a moment to look at the major online local papers…

According to La Nacion, 88 people were injured here in town by fireworks and 5 by champagne corks (oh, that dangerous bubbly…). Fifty of them were minors, including one 13 year old who is hospitalized in the burn center with probable permanent loss of vision in both eyes. This is a more than 50% increase over last year’s reported injuries – 60 people.

According to Clarin, 44 people are/were being treated at the burn center, 30 of them minors, and another 26 at the Santa Lucia Eye Hospital.

kaos.geo December 25, 2006 at 21:54

Hehehehe, get some earplugs for new year’s eve then!
On the 1990’s with a lot more bang for our bucks (pun intended) we Argentine freaks used to buy fireckrackers in almost obscene quantities.
The crisis really calmed us down.

Anyway, try to spot, if you can, a freakish invention … some sort of chinese baloon/lantern that people light and then let adrift.

Call me paranoid, but I always have visions of an unattended and open-windowed apartment burning up because of this.

This kind of observations on our culture is what I enjoy from foreigners writing blogs.. I laughed my a** off one time reading the impressions of a tourist on the dancing empanadas (you know the spooky ones, with hollow black eyes).
It read like a stephen king short story.

Have fun!

dan December 25, 2006 at 23:59

New Year’s Eve I expect it – Christmas Eve I didn’t!

ksternberg December 26, 2006 at 01:17

Now really. I simply can’t understand why hours of high volume fireworks would bother you, Dan. Dancing empanadas?

dan December 26, 2006 at 08:37

I was wondering myself about the dancing empanadas… I gather I’ve missed some cultural event during my time here. A quick google search on them, however, reveals that they’ve been seen (and some folks have posted photos). It’s apparently an ad campaign for a local empanada chain called Solo Empanadas, they send six dancing empanadas out into the streets to entertain folks and spread the word… I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them!

kaos.geo December 26, 2006 at 10:37


Here I found a link.

Spooooooky!!! No eyeeeeeees! 😛

asadoarg December 26, 2006 at 12:45


Your’s has a lid. Try it with the lid open and no oven 🙂

We cooked one too but I decided to do it in the oven instead of chopping it up for the parrilla. And yes the breast meat came out like sawdust. Didn’t have a chance nor room to brine it and also the thing was almost touching all sides of the oven. About 16 pounds or so. Someone raises them here on the island and it was super fresh but too bad it didn’t come out better. Really need to get a larger oven.

>Solo Empanadas

One was just down the block from us. Got a little bit old after a while with them dancing about once a month right below you.


HEHE I miss that. Too much of a fire risk down here in TDF so they have them banned. The city does do shows though on New Years and a few other local holidays. I don’t, however, miss drugging one of our dogs during those events. The first time, which was three months after we got her, we didn’t drug her and she spent the whole night hiding in a corner shaking like crazy. You just can’t find a quiet place to hide heh

dan December 27, 2006 at 09:24

Gotta have a lid. How else am I going to smoke things?!

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