Thanksgiving Puerto Rican Style

Thanksgiving can be a daunting holiday to plan and organize, especially if you are on the hosting side of things. Seemingly endless food to prepare, family and friends to invite, and before they all arrive and start stuffing their faces, you’ve got some decorating to do… More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving puts the focus on the entertaining. Christmas is much more private holiday, waking up leisurely, putting on a pot of coffee and opening presents.

In my family, Thanksgiving is almost bigger than Christmas. We usually get together at one of my Aunt’s houses, but last year, my cousin Wanda volunteered to become the first of a new generation of hosts. I think she is still recovering. Because of our Puerto Rican heritage, we have a crossover Thanksgiving, serving traditional goodies like turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce, side-by-side with Latin staples like Arroz con Habichuelas (rice and beans), and Perníl (roast pork). An unbelievably delicious spread, but a bit mind-boggling to prepare.

Here is my mom, Nilsa’s recipe for Perníl, one of our families absolute best.

The weight will determine the cooking time

8 lbs picnic pork shoulder

12 minced garlic cloves

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white vinegar

8 teaspoons salt (or 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat)

Wash the pork shoulder. With a sharp knife, make 1-inch deep cuts into the pork.

With mortar and pestle crush garlic, oregano and black pepper together. Add olive oil, vinegar and salt. Mix well.

Spoon some of the garlic mixture inside the small cuts around the pork and spread remaining all over the pork.

Place pork in aluminum turkey pan (skin side up) and cover with aluminum foil tightly.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours. (Mom has marinated this for as long as two days.) Turn it in the marinate

Bake in pre-heated 325° oven for about 5 to 6 hours. Remove aluminum foil and bake at 375° for another hour or until skin is crisp. Closely watch this so you don’t burn the skin (chicharrone).

Pork should be well-done and tender.

What are some of your family Thanksgiving traditions? Any special decorations? Dishes? Cocktails? Tasty desserts? Share them with us!

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