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Yucatán Marinated and Steam-Roasted Turkey


Mario Martinez, the Corporate Executive Chef and Director of Bistros & Boulangeries at AJ's Fine Foods shares his recipe for Yucatán Marinated and Steam-Roasted Turkey. Chef says, "Although spread to the northeast of North America by the time the white man arrived in the new world, the turkey's origins are actually in the tropical heart of Mesoamerica, the pre-Columbian domain of the Maya, in what's now Central America and Mexico. Perhaps 1,800 years before the Pilgrims hunted wild turkey, the Maya domesticated the bird, serving it to their elite and using it in ceremonies for healing, planting and praying for rain."


  • 1 Medium (16-20 pounds) turkey, fully thawed and towel-dried; reserve giblets and neck
  • ½ cup Butter or lard, softened at room temperature
  • ¼ cup Minced garlic
  • 8 oz. Achiote paste (2 packages, if commercially prepared)
  • 6 cups Fresh sour (Seville) orange juice; substitute bottled (available in Latin American markets)
  • ....or mix equal parts fresh orange and lime juices
  • ½ cup Honey
  • 2 Tbsp. Cumin seeds, lightly toasted in a dry pan set over medium heat and freshly-ground
  • 1 Tbsp. Dried oregano
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Hot sauce (El Yucatéco, Tapatío brands or comparable), to taste
  • 3 Banana leaves, trimmed of center ribs (also available frozen in Latin American markets)
  • ¼ cup Vegetable oil, to grease the roasting pan
  • 1 Package of cheesecloth
  • Sliced radishes, pickled red onions, warm tortillas and salsa


Mix the butter or lard with the minced garlic until well blended. Dissolve achiote paste in orange juice; add honey, cumin, oregano, salt and hot sauce to taste. Using gloved hands, put turkey in non-reactive pan. Spread ½ the mixture under skin, the other ½ on outside of skin. Rub some marinade in the cavity, then pour mixture evenly over turkey and marinate, covered, 3 to 4 hrs.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lay several 3-foot lengths of aluminum foil, overlapping about an inch and transversely centered across a greased roasting pan. Cut three similar lengths of cheesecloth, soak them completely in water, and lay them out in a similar fashion over the aluminum foil sheets. Lay out the banana leaves over the soaked cheesecloth and place the turkey in the center. Pour any remaining marinade over the turkey, wrap in the banana leaves, then in the soaked cheesecloth, and finally wrap turkey completely with aluminum foil in such a way as to facilitate removal. Pour two cups of water in the roasting pan with the aluminum-wrapped turkey in the center.

Place the turkey in the oven and roast at 400ºF for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325ºF. An unstuffed 16-20 pound turkey takes 3½-4 hours at 325ºF. Thigh temperature should reach 165ºF for at least 15 seconds.

Let turkey rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, then remove wrappings. Place the turkey on a platter (whole or in pieces) with any remaining cooking juices in the roasting pan poured over it and pickled onions arranged around it. Serve with sliced radishes, pickled red onions, warm tortillas and salsa.

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