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How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in Argentina

Hosting a turkey dinner is perfectly feasible in BA. Here's how to do it.

By | [email protected] | November 13, 2018 4:01pm

stock-braised-turkey-legsPhoto by Michael Graydon for Bon Appétit
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Somehow we’ve made it to November and the yanquis in the room are jonesin’ for some roast turkey. No matter that temperatures in Buenos Aires typically soar into the 80s this time of year: we want to recreate our childhood traditions, and we want to do it now.

Given that I’ve hosted my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners after 11 years in Argentina – my first being the most unexpected after a friend who was supposed to handle the turkey came down with a nasty case of salmonella the night before – I figured it’s time to share the wealth and put together a simple guide to getting your gracias on. From where to get the bird, to how to make sure it’s actually edible by the time your guests arrive, to a perfect Plan B if you’re keen on outsourcing, it’s all here.

Read on, and thank me later.

Getting the Turkey

First, you’re going to need to procure a pavo. It’s actually not that difficult, so relax – you won’t need to sub in a chicken unless you’re really, really unprepared. There are two basic routes you can go down with this one: buying a frozen turkey from a big supermarket, or getting your paws on a more artisanal (?) bird from a specialty butcher.

Photo via Matt Taylor-Gross for Saveur

If you’re hosting a small crowd and don’t feel like you have to prove yourself to anyone (one day you’ll be proud of me, Dad!), the frozen pavitas available at Disco and Jumbo will not let you down. Look for the Sadia brand and you’re all set. These lady turkeys cook easily, especially since they come with their own built-in thermometer, and won’t take up too much room in your fridge as it defrosts.

For more ambitious endeavors, getting a fresh bird from a specialty shop is a fun adventure. Granja Converso and Piaf are the experts in this realm, so you can’t really mess it up unless you forget you need a turkey until the morning of. What’s great is that you can call ahead, tell them what you need, and they’ll reserve it for you like some super fancy poultry VIP. Last year I schlepped home a giant pavo cordobés from Granja Converso, and it weighed so much that they were kind enough to help me bring it to the car. They’ve been doing this for years – you can literally get anything from snails to frog’s legs to llama to alligator here – and the customer service is old-school friendly.

Word to the wise: try to be as specific as possible when determining how big of a turkey you need. There’s a huge difference between 11kg and 14kg, and the panic attack you suffer while wondering if it will fit in your oven is something you should try to avoid.

Granja Converso | Lavalle 3501 – Almagro | Tel: 4866-1108

Piaf Proveeduría | Av. Dorrego 1605 – Colegiales | Tel: 4778-9677

Prep Help

OK, so you’ve got the turkey, now what? If you’ve never had to prepare Thanksgiving dinner yourself (or even if you have, but were so traumatized by the experience that your memory has been erased), the kind folks at Butterball are here to help. Head on over to this handy Calculators & Conversions website and leave all the weird math to the miniature robots that live inside your computer (that’s how it works, right?).

Photo by Chelsie Craig for Bon Appétit

This tool will help you determine how big your bird should be according to a range of factors like if you want leftovers or if your group is full of big eaters or not. Most importantly – leave enough time for the turkey to defrost! The Sadia ones are rock hard and can take up to five days to thaw. Never underestimate the power of the deep freeze, guys.

Recipes

Cool. You’ve got the turkey squared away, know how much you should have for the big event, but… what else are you supposed to make? Rather, what else should your guests be bringing with them? Seriously if anyone tries to show up empty-handed or with some cheap-ass wine from the chino downstairs, you have permission to banish them and avoid their contact for the rest of eternity.

What’s great about Thanksgiving – or any traditional holiday, come to think of it – is that there’s no one set list of dishes you’re supposed to serve. Regional influences mean what you’ll be eating in California is definitely not like what’s on the table in Maine or down in Georgia. So, if your family is still speaking to you despite the fact that you left them to move to Argentina, maybe check with them to see if there are any recipes you can replicate down here.

Remember that you’ll have to do some adaptation since many ingredients aren’t readily available here. And no, I won’t listen to your whining about that. What’d you expect? For there to be a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods on every corner of the earth? Get over yourself. Besides, a little innovation and spontaneity wouldn’t kill you.

Photo via Matt Taylor-Gross for Saveur

I’m a huge fan of Saveur and the New York Times since their recipes pretty much stand the test of time. Consider it a one-stop shop for all things Thanksgiving, with enough variety that will cater to different palates and culinary abilities. Saveur‘s guide also includes tips and suggestions about kitchen tools, gadgets, and supplies. It’s basically like having an extremely capable, almost judgmental but not quite, close friend in the kitchen with you. Consider it aspirational enough without being too intimidating. Don’t forget about Bon Appétit, another veritable treasure trove of awesome recipe and meal ideas.

The Times keeps it real with its massive anthology of recipes and step-by-step explanations on everything from defrosting to actually cooking the turkey what to do with all of those damn leftovers (I highly recommend making the turkey curry, it’s that good). My parents came down to BA for last year’s celebration and my Dad brought the print versions of these guides – because he was born in 1951 – which proved to be a handy lifesaver in the kitchen. For some reason, I don’t trust myself with an iPad over a burning stove, with multiple pots and pans in various stages of simmering and braising and who knows what else. Having something on paper means you can make your own notes and additions as you go, which ups your Julia Child quotient by about 10,000.

Photo via KCET.org

My favorite Argentina-friendly, no-fail turkey recipe, however, is from Epicurious. I mean, hello? Turkey ready in two hours?! What kind of sorcery is this? This is the one time having one of those tiny porteño ovens will work in your favor: the bird cooks faster (meaning it doesn’t dry out) in a smaller, hotter oven. Pro tip: When it doubt, add more butter.

Supplies

Since it might be safe to assume you don’t host 20-person dinner parties on the reg, don’t forget to check up on what kitchen supplies and dishware you might need to ensure smooth sailing on the big night. OK, so you don’t need to have a complete set of formal Wedgwood china (actually maybe you should but we’ll leave that conversation for another day), but it’s nice to provide some level of sophistication, whatever that means to you.

If you need to stock up on extra plates, napkins, or glasses, the city is full of bazaars and shops that cater to this. Looking for the gastro-Mecca of all things kitchen-related? Sojourn over to Av. Jujuy (nope, definitely not in Palermo) and check out the massive offering of supplies. Fun fact: one year I was racking my brain, wondering where the meat oven thermometer I had purchased from Williams-Sonoma specifically for the purpose of Thanksgiving dinner was, I gave up and frantically sent my husband on the Subte to Av. Jujuy to get a very last-minute replacement. Of course, the original item showed up out of nowhere once we’d already carved the turkey, but hey, at least now I have a backup.

I recommend going straight to Bazar Chef, but if you want to learn more, you can check out this handy article published by La Nación.

Outsource!

Maybe you really wish you had the time, energy, or culinary prowess to host your own Thanksgiving, but it’s just too much stress, or your apartment isn’t big enough, or your oven is too scary to handle (#respect). Luckily, there are at least two places that will be serving up turkey, stuffing, and all the sides. The best part? You won’t have to wash any dishes or deal with people’s gross shoes all over your nice rugs.

Expat favorite Chicken Bros is hosting a special dinner with Larry Rogers, aka El Tejano on both Wednesday and Thursday. They’ll be serving up turkey two ways, honey baked ham, tons of sides, and all-you-can-drink wine (!!!!!!1111). You’ll need to reserve your space by sending an email to [email protected] and making a AR $500 deposit.

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?El Miercoles 21 y Jueves 22, Chicken Bros y @eltejanoba están juntando fuerzas para darles la experienca Thanksgiving mas Yankee y Autentica de Buenos Aires. ? En estos tiempos un poco complicados, dejamos toda en la puerta y por una noche, recordamos todas las cosas que somos thankful for. El Espiritu del Día del Espíritu de Turquía se trata de comer más de lo que deberías, reír más fuerte de lo que creías posible, llenar los vasos vacíos de extraños antes de los tuyos y agradecerte las pequeñas cosas de la vida; Esperamos que nos acompañen en esta ocasión especial 🙂 The Feast: Juntos en mesas compartidas, servimos la comida `Family Style`, servis la comida a tu vecino hasta que no puede comer mas. ?The Drinks: – Barra libre de Vino: Cosechos seleccionados de vino tinto y blanco – Champan Brindis – Agua sin/con gas – Gaseosa ??The Mains: – Turkey Two Ways: 1) Pavo ahumado por 8 horas / inyectado con jugo de naranja y especias 2) Pavo estilo Sous : Vide cocido a la temperatura perfecta sobre 12 horas / inyectado con hierbas italianas y manteca 3) Honey Baked Ham : Paleta ahumada 13 horas glaceado con miel. ?The Sides: – Texan Mashed Potatoes: Pure de papa al ajo con marscapone acompanado con dos estilos de gravy. – Mac n Cheese. – Texas Stuffing: Mezcla de pan tostado/ cebollas/ morrones/ zanahoria y queso. – Cornbread: Pan de Maiz con panceta – Ensalada de Remolacha, Espinaca, Queso de Cabra y Nueces. – Espárragos grillados con parmesano y aderezo de ajo al lado. – Pure de batata con canela y azucar negra. – Aderezo de Arrandanos rojos. ?The Postre: Torta de Pecan c/ una bocha de helado de crema americana El Precio: 1300 con Vino Barra Libre. Hay que enviarnos un email a [email protected] para reservar tu espacio con una sena de 500 pesos x persona.

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OG American-style restaurant empire Kansas will once again be serving two options for Thanksgiving: in-house dining or turkey take-away. If you don’t feel like spending your Thursday night with a room full of really, really loud strangers, for the low price of AR $5,500 (wtf) you’ll be able to pick up a whole roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, two side dishes, and pecan pie for dessert. They’ll also be serving the same menu in the restaurant, but the guy on the phone didn’t want to tell me how much it cost, so. You’ll need to call and book your seats.

Chicken Bros. | Thames y Costa Rica | Tel: 4833-9127 

Kansas | Av. del Libertador 4625 | Tel: 4776-4100

 

Photo via Matt Taylor-Gross for Saveur

That’s it, folks! It’s not actually that hard? OK, it kind of is. But if you plan ahead, delegate, and stock up on extra wine, your Thanksgiving is guaranteed to be a smashing success. And remember:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.