Ceia de Natal
(Brazilian Christmas Turkey Feast)

This is a traditional Brazilian Christmas turkey dinner, to be served after the midnight Mass at church. Or, if you're not a practicing Catholic, any time you see fit on Christmas Eve. You'll need to start getting ready a couple of days in advance. It's a rather elaborate affair, but well worth the effort. Hey, if I can do it alone, so can you.

I have a little story to go with these recipes. Years ago, I decided to prepare this feast for my husband's family. After working for three days, we sat down to our fabulous dinner. My father-in-law carved the turkey and we left the rest of the bird on the kitchen counter. After opening our presents, we came back to the kitchen to find out that our German shepherd dog had grabbed the turkey from its tray and eaten most of it on the floor...So, who do you think had the best time at Xmas that year?

For this meal, you'll have the turkey, served with fruits and a dressing made with the giblets and farinha de mandioca, and white rice. For dessert you can make our Brazilian flan, which can be prepared the day before and refrigerated.

You will need the turkey's giblets and farinha de mandioca (manioc meal) for the dressing.

The turkey

This recipe serves 8 people (Brazilians) with plenty of leftovers. You will need to marinate it for at least 24 hours before you start preparing it for roasting. For the marinade you will need.

1 bottle of champagne

2 large onions, sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp of a good quality mustard

1/2 cup of vinegar

1 cup of a good quality olive oil

2 large bay leaves

juice of one lime

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of chopped scallions

1/2 cup of chopped parsley

salt and black pepper to taste

8-10 strips of bacon to decorate turkey for roasting

Rub the turkey inside and out with a paste made with the sal, garlic, mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Place the turkey in a non-reactive pan or very large pyrex, and add olive oil, vinegar, lime juice, champagne and water. Add bay leaves, sliced onions, scallions and parsley. Cover loosely with a large piece of plastic and leave in refrigerator for 24 hours, periodically dousing turkey with the liquid.

The dressing

Besides the giblets and farinha de mandioca, you will need:

1 can of peaches in light syrup

4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1/2 lb of pitted prunes, chopped into small pieces

1/4 lb of seedless raisins

1 large onion, chopped

1 Tbsp of chopped scallions

1 Tbsp of chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

4 Tbsp of butter

Cook the giblets well in water, with salt, black pepper and a bay leave. Remove from liquid. Chop into small pieces and reserve. Remove peaches from liquid and drain well for a few minutes. Chop into small pieces.

In a large frying pan or saucepan, saute onions in butter until golden brown, add chopped giblets and raisins, stir well, add peaches and prunes. Add farinha de mandioca, enough to form a wet farofa. Add salt and pepper, chopped eggs, scallions and parsley. Remove from heat and reserve.

Preparing the turkey

Remove turkey from marinade and rub it well inside and out with butter or tub margarine, fill with dressing and close opening well. Reserve marinade for basting. Reserve leftover dressing. Place turkey on roasting pan. Crisscross bacon strips on top of breast for decoration. Pour some of the marinade over the turkey. Cover turkey with aluminum foil and roast it at 325 F basting it at regular intervals with the remaining marinade. Turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 185 F. About 20 minutes before it's ready, remove foil and let it become a beautiful golden color.

It's ready...now you need to garnish it!

For the garnish you will need:

1 can of peaches, halved, in light syrup, well drained

1/2 lb of pitted prunes

Serve white meats surrounded by peaches and prunes and dark meats on a separate tray with the dressing. Serve with white rice.

Bom apetite and Feliz Natal from us all here at Maria-Brazil! Well, Christmas has come and gone and Carnaval has come and pretty soon it'll be Christmas again...

Maria's Cookbook