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A Dash Of Latin Flavor On The Thanksgiving Table

Nov 15, 2012
Originally published on November 16, 2012 4:59 pm

When Chef Jose Garces, the Philadelphia-based restaurateur and author of The Latin Road Home, thinks back to the Thanksgiving table of his youth, he remembers the turkey, and his father's chicken giblet gravy.

But his parents, who emigrated to Chicago from Ecuador in the 1960s, whipped up Ecuadorean staples as well.

Those might be meat-filled empanadas, or sweet corn humitas — Ecuadorean tamales.

"[Humita] is basically a puree of yellow corn, with white corn flour. It's filled with scallions and cheese, and then it's wrapped in a rehydrated corn husk and steamed," says Garces. "It has a little bit of baking powder so it kind of fluffs up. It should be nice and airy. It's something we would serve for Thanksgiving in place of corn bread."

Humitas can be stuffed with chicken or beef.

"Any good Ecuadorean would tell you it's sacrilege not to serve them just with cheese," says Garces.

Garces says his family also enjoyed a quinoa soup — a chowder in the locro family, made with Ecuadorean potatoes and milk. His family's version has aromatic vegetables, cooked quinoa, achiote or annatto paste, fresh corn kernels and a touch of cream. He tops it off with bacon bits or lardon.

And to drink?

"In the season it gets a little chilly, and we really like sangria as a family," says Garces. "It's just a great festive cocktail."

And it is possible to make it nonalcoholic as well, Garces says.

Click on the links below for Garces' recipes:

Sweet corn humitas

Quinoa soup

Sangria

And for more of his recipes, check out this recent interview on Talk of the Nation.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This week, we've been asking chefs to give us tips for the Thanksgiving feast. We've heard from Alton Brown about his foolproof way to prepare turkey. Debbie Lee gave us ideas for some delicious Korean-inspired dishes and now, with just a week to go, we hear from chef and Philadelphia restaurateur Jose Garces. He has ideas for adding some Latin flair to the feast.

His parents emigrated from Ecuador in the 1960s and settled in Chicago. I asked him what was on his family's Thanksgiving table when he was growing up.

JOSE GARCES: So what's on the table is the obvious, turkey. My dad also made a really delicious chicken giblet gravy. But also, we had our Ecuadorean staples. It could be a meat-filled empanada, a sweet corn humita, or, you know, my mom also embraced the American side. So she would do her version of stuffing, which was pretty good. It had chicken livers and a lot of aromatic vegetables.

BLOCK: Tell me about the humitas. What's a humita?

GARCES: So, humita is a sweet corn tamale. It's is basically a puree of yellow corn, with white corn flour. It's filled with scallions and cheese, and then it's wrapped in a rehydrated corn husk and steamed. It has a little bit of baking powder, so it kind of fluffs up. It should be nice and airy. And that's something you would serve - typically, we would serve for Thanksgiving in place of corn bread.

BLOCK: And what else can you put in side them?

GARCES: Chicken, like a chicken filling, you could put beef. But typically, you know, any good Ecuadorian would tell you it's sacrilege not to serve them just with cheese.

BLOCK: Uh-huh. So the sweet corn humitas. What else might be on the Garces' family table?

GARCES: Well, we would also do a great quinoa soup, which actually was a chowder in the locro family, which, a locro is a Ecuadorean potato and milk chowder. And our version would have a lot of aromatic vegetables, cooked quinoa, achiote or annatto paste, fresh corn kernels as well, a touch of cream and then maybe some bacon gratin, bacon bits or bacon lardons we would put on there as well.

BLOCK: It sounds rich, but also really, really good.

GARCES: Absolutely.

BLOCK: You have a recipe for something to drink that sounds wonderful.

GARCES: Yeah. I think in the season it gets a little chilly, and we really like sangria as a family. It's just a great festive cocktail. It's Spanish-inspired and we do a spiced cranberry and dried red chile sangria with some spices, anise and clove. I like to use a Rose Tempranillo, some ruby red port, a little Torres Gran orange liqueur or Cointreau, and cranberry juice. And it's just - if you let that marinate just the right amount of time, it gives your party a great festive feel.

BLOCK: I guess you could do it nonalcoholic.

GARCES: You could do it nonalcoholic as well. You know, I hadn't thought about it...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: But now you will.

GARCES: Yes, absolutely.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Garces, cheers. Happy Thanksgiving.

GARCES: Cheers. Happy Thanksgiving to you. Thanks for having me on.

BLOCK: Chef Jose Garces, author of the cookbook "The Latin Road Home." We've posted his recipes on our food blog, The Salt, where you can also find Thanksgiving suggestions from Alton Brown and Debbie Lee.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.