Growing up in my house in Puerto Rico, was anything but traditional.  With a Jewish dad, and a Roman Catholic mom, the holiday traditions were very different.  The only thing that brought it all together, was being Latino. Turkey seems to be a universal symbol of the holidays for the most part.  So we always had one. I am a fan of ham, but a greater fan of Pernil (Puerto Rican style Roast Pork Shoulder), which you will undoubtedly find at any Puerto Rican holiday gathering.  I have combined some of my favorite recipes, and decided to share them with you all. Happy Holidays, from my home to yours.

Easy Christmas Dinner

Things you’ll need:

Depending on how many people you will host, depends on the size of the meats you get for your dinner.  I usually like to have at least a 20lb turkey. I also substitute traditional ham, with a pork shoulder, which you can get for less at your local butcher.  A 13lb pork shoulder (pernil), will cost you less than a ham of the same size.

This dinner consists of Turkey, Pork Roast, Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Corn Pudding, Rice Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Gravy, and Cheese Flan for dessert.  I don’t do bread during holiday dinners, since there is plenty of starch and carbs already.

10 large sweet potatoes

6 oz of pecans

Dark brown sugar

Molasses or pure maple syrup

10 medium sized red potatoes

4 large onions

2 dozen large eggs

1 box of chicken flavored stuffing mix

1 piece of chicharron (pork belly)

12 oz of sundried tomatoes

1 ½ cup of white wine (Chardonnay will do fine)

3 sticks of unsalted butter

Several sprigs of fresh oregano

Several sprigs of fresh rosemary

Fresh Italian Parsley


2 cups of fresh cranberries

2 cups of granulated sugar


8 oz of cream cheese

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 can of evaporated milk

26 oz of Coarse Kosher or Sea Salt

Oven safe cooking bag for up to 25 lb turkey

1 medium red onion

1 large green bell pepper

½ cup of olive oil + 4 tablespoons

2 pkgs of vico yellow saffron rice

2 packets of Goya Sazon con Achiote

¾ cup of vinegar

9 cloves or 9 teaspoons of garlic

2 tablespoons of dry oregano

1 tablespoon of coarse pepper

2 lemons

½ cup of milk

Pure Vanilla extract

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup of mustard

1 teaspoon of paprika

2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese (shredded


PORK ROAST (PERNIL): With a sharp knife, carefully separate the skin/fat part of the pork roast from the meat, but not completely.  You want to create an attached flap, so that you can re-cover the pork roast. Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a small bowl mix together ½ cup of olive oil, garlic cloves or minced garlic, pepper, dry oregano, 2 packets of Sazon and the ¾ cup of vinegar.  Take your knife and make stabs about 1 ½ inch deep all over the pork roast. Pour a ¼ of your mixture into the bottom of a roasting pan. Put roast in, skin side up, pull the skin back and pour the rest of your mixture on the pork, making sure it’s covered and going into the holes.  Cover the roast back with the skin. Make sure the skin is dry, and sprinkle with a good amount of coarse salt. Put into oven and roast at 400° F for one hour, then at 300° F for 4-5 more hours. Do not cover. This you can do ahead and sit aside to warm up later, unless you have dual ovens.

MOIST ROAST TURKEY: Take your turkey, allow it to thaw.  After removing all the giblets, trim any access fat or hanging skin from your turkey.  Clean the turkey thoroughly inside and out, rinsing repeatedly with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels inside and out.  In a large pot pour your entire container of sea salt or kosher salt into at least a quart of water, and let simmer, stirring into the salt completely dissolves.  Allow to cool completely to room temperature. Put turkey in the cooking bag in your sink, the pour the brined water into the bag. Run water from the sink into the bag until it is almost full, and then tightly zip close the bag.  Move the bag around a bit to distribute the salt. Allow to sit for at least 4 hours in the brine. This will ensure the turkey is moist. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Take your turkey your turkey out, give it a super quick rinse and pat completely dry on the outside.  Take a roasting pan, with a rack, and in the pan cut two of your large onions into quarters. Leave them in the bottom of the pan, add diced up chicharron, reserving a few pieces on the side. Add a couple sprigs of rosemary and oregano, and half of your bunch of parsley.  Put the remaining sprigs of rosemary and oregano, halved onions, and chicharron into the cavity of the turkey. Pour ¾ cup of the white wine into the roasting pan. This will create flavor and act like sort of a steam bath under the turkey. Mix together a stick of softened butter with minced garlic and some diced parsley, oregano and rosemary, until you create a sort of paste.  Glide your fingers under the skin of the turkey where the breast starts. Don’t completely separate the skin from the breast, just about 3 inches in. Begin to push some of the butter paste under the skin, and massage it deeper in along the turkey from the outside until you have all your butter mixture in on both sides. Put your turkey on the rack and the rack into the roasting pan.  Put into the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes to brown the skin. Turn the oven down to 350° F and cover the breast with foil. The turkey needs to continue to roast for another 3 ½ to 4 hours, pulling the foil back, and basting with the pan drippings every half an hour and re-covering. Allow your turkey to rest at least 20 minutes before your carve it. You can remove the rack with the turkey. taking the contest of the roasting pan, and putting it into the blender or food processor.   Pour into a sauce pan, bring to simmer, add the remaining white wine, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch until thickened.

GRAVY:  Taking the contents of the roasting pan (onions, herbs, chicharrones, and all the bits you can scrape out) and putting it into the blender or food processor until smooth.   Pour into a sauce pan, bring to simmer, add the remaining white wine, and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

PECAN SWEET POTATOES:  In a large pot, boil all of your sweet potatoes until soft all the way through once pierced with a fork.  Allow them to cool and with your fork, scrape the skin off. Smash (don’t mash) the sweet potatoes, leaving them with some texture, and allow them to cool.  Butter a rectangular pyrex dish, set aside. Mix the cooled mash potatoes with ½ cup of butter, ½ a cup of milk and two eggs, vanilla and 1 1/3 cup of brown sugar.  Sometimes I like to add the juice of 2 lemons, but that is optional. Just mix until it comes together. Spread evenly into buttered pyrex dish. In another bowl take your 6-8 oz of pecans, and toss with ½ cup of melted butter, ¾ cup of brown sugar and ½ cup of flour.  Layer on top of sweet potato mixture. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 375° F. If you want to add marshmallows, then take the dish out, add marshmallows on top, and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.

CRANBERRY SAUCE: To make your cranberry sauce.  Thoroughly rinse your fresh or dried cranberries.  Cover with water in a saucepan, about 3-4 inches about the cranberries.  Add 1 cup of granulated sugar and stir. Bring to a boil. Add your choice of a dry cinnamon stick, or a few whole cloves (in cheesecloth). Allow to simmer very, very low, until the cranberries have broken down to a compote type of texture.  Cool and serve.

RUSTIC RED POTATO SALAD:  Take your red potatoes (leaving the skin on), and rinse them thoroughly.  Slice them into cubes and place them in a pot of ice-cold water. Add about 5-6 eggs to the water. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes, then cover and let set for another 5 minutes.  Remove the eggs, and deshell them. Cut the egg up into slices. Dice half of a large potato. Add both to cooled potatoes, and then add your mayo and mustard. For an extra kick add some dill, and substitute the mayo with sour cream.

CHEESY RICE STUFFING:  Take both bags of your Vico Yellow Saffron rice and cook them according to the instructions.  Take your stuffing mix, and dice up your red onion, green pepper, and sun-dried tomatoes and add it to the stuffing following the instructions for the stuffing.  Afterwards, add the rice and stuffing in a pyrex dish in layers, sprinkling your Sharp Cheddar Cheese in between, making sure you have enough cheese to sprinkle on top.  Place in a 350° F oven for about 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

CORN PUDDING: Combine one can of whole kernel corn with one can of cream corn, set aside.  Beat 5 eggs, and add ½ cup of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/3 cup of butter.  Briskly mix in 4 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional). Bake in a buttered pyrex dish or casserole for 1 hour at 375° – 400° F oven.  Allow to cool, and serve.

CHEESE FLAN:  Take 8 oz of cream cheese and allow it to soften.  In a mixer or food processor, put the cream cheese, 7 eggs, 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to mix until smooth and well-incorporated.  Set aside. Preheat oven to 350° F. Take a roasting pan, and inside set a round pyrex dish or round cake tin. In sauce pan, over low heat, melt 1 cup of granulated sugar. This will become a caramel.  Immediately pour that caramel into the cake tin or round pyrex. Give a few minutes to cool and harden. Pour the cream cheese mixture next into the pyrex or cake tin, then in the roasting pan around the dish, pour hot water, just up to the sides.  (This is called a “baño de Maria”. This is similar to making a cheese cake. Make sure that you secure the top of the pyrex or cake tin with foil, and then place the entire thing (pyrex/cake tin in roasting pan, into the oven. Bake at 1 hour to 70 minutes in the oven.  Take out, remove from the roasting pan, and allow to cool. Give it about 5-6 hours in the refrigerator without removing the foil. Take it out of the fridge, remove the foil, and carefully run your knife around the edges of the flan. Cover the dish with a plate, and carefully flip over!  Wala!! Happy Holidays!!!