Mexican turkey in piquant herb and spice broth: Pavo en escabeche

articles Food & Cuisine Recipes

Karen Hursh Graber

Two years ago, along the road from Palenque to the Campeche, passing the small campechano town of Esmarga, we stopped at a roadside palapa restaurant – one of the small, thatched-roof eateries common in tropical parts of Mexico – where I tasted my first escabeche. The word escabeche is defined in most Spanish-English dictionaries as “pickled”, a meaning that does not apply in this case. The Diccionario Mexicano, on the other hand, provides just the right definition: adobo con vinagre, hierbas aromáticas, etc. In other words, a vinegar-based seasoning. This recipe also calls for a recado which, while known as recado para bistec, is frequently used in the preparation of poultry dishes. It may be made ahead of time, or prepared while the turkey is cooking.

For the recado:


  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • salt to taste
  • vinegar as necessary

Grind all the ingredients, except vinegar, in a spice mill or food processor until well blended.

Add just enough vinegar to form a paste, which should be refrigerated if not being used immediately.

For the turkey:


  • 1 12-lb. turkey
  • 1 whole head garlic, roasted on a comal or griddle, then peeled
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 2-4 whole habanero chiles, or to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 1 recipe recado para bistec (above)
  • 1 1/2 cups bitter orange juice, or a mixture of sweet orange juice and vinegar

Wrap the turkey in cheese cloth and tie it with string so that it will not come apart during cooking.

Place it in a large stockpot with the garlic, cloves, allspice, onions, chiles, bay leaves, oregano, salt to taste and water to cover.

Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and cook the turkey at a medium boil for two hours or until tender.

Remove the turkey and reserve the broth.

Unwrap the cheesecloth and allow the turkey to cool for 15-20 minutes.

Dissolve the recado in the orange juice and add it to the broth.

Cook, stirring, over a medium flame until the recado is incorporated into the broth, and cook at a medium boil 10-15 minutes.

Slice or shred the turkey and serve it in shallow soup bowls with plenty of broth, accompanied by marinated sliced red onions and hot tortillas.

Serves 16.

Link to source articles
A guide to using spices in Mexican cooking
The bird is the word: Stovetop Mexican pavo, guajolote, totole

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006 by Karen Hursh Graber © 2006
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