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Burnt Out On Leftovers Ideas? We've Got Some


If your refrigerator is still filled with surplus turkey parts, roast beef drabs or ham pickings, then listen closely. Mexican chef Patti Jinich can spice up even the driest of Christmas leftovers with a special sauce called pibil. It's delicious, rich and easy to make.

PATI JINICH: When a Mexican hears the word pibil, our mouths just water.

KAHN: Jinich, from Mexico City, now lives just outside Washington, D.C., and invites us into her home and amazing kitchen.

JINICH: OK, so we're going to be making two things. One is what I call a fast-track turkey pibil and some Yucatan-style red pickled onions.

KAHN: When we're done, we'll have a pot full of stewed turkey pibil, a perfect filling for a sandwich or the stuffing for enchiladas. And we'll dress both with Jinich's pungent pickled onions. First, the pibil sauce and the main ingredient, achiote, which can be found ready to use in Mexican markets already in a paste.

JINICH: It's, like, full, multilayered, very strong flavor. It's like when you eat it, you're going to eat it now. It's like something hit you and you don't know what it was, but you want more.

KAHN: Jinich begins by roasting tomatoes, garlic and onions. The charred flavor gives the sauce that signature rustic taste that otherwise would come from hours of cooking pibil in traditional underground pits.

JINICH: By roasting or charring them, they have that inner characteristics come out, so they're now mushy and juicy and sort of caramelized and a little burnt. And we're going to puree this.

KAHN: After blending the vegetables, Jinich pours the puree into a large saucepan with two tablespoons of heated oil.

JINICH: What you want now is for the color to become much more dark and for the sauce to become thicker. And meanwhile, I'm going to puree some other ingredients that are going to go in the sauce.

KAHN: Everything then needs to be marinated in bitter orange juice, which can be hard to find. Instead, Jinich makes her own concoction using fresh juices and vinegar.

JINICH: May favorite vinegar, which is (laughter) white distilled vinegar and then the achiote paste.

KAHN: Jinich gives a rough cut to the paste, adds some spices - oregano, cumin. She blends and then pours into the already simmering pureed vegetable mixture. Then she adds a little more broth, and I can't tell you how much because for Jinich it's not an exact science.

JINICH: In Mexico, the Mexicans usually describe recipes by, you know, you cook that until it feels chubby, until it looks red, until it tastes good, until - and here in the U.S. I find that I need to be so exact. And this is the tastiest, most beautiful, most dressed up treatment that you can give to shredded leftover turkey.

KAHN: Or any other leftover meat. After about 10 minutes, we toss in our shredded turkey. The mixture bubbles and the meat soaks it all in and simmers a bit more, which gives us just enough time for important decisions.

JINICH: We can make two things actually. We can make the enchiladas and we can make some tortas.


We go for both. Tortas, or Mexican sandwiches, are simple. The enchiladas require an additional step to make sure they'll be sturdy enough. Take a corn tortilla.

JINICH: What you want is to toast them slightly and heat them so that when you fold them they won't crack. And the other way is to what we say in Spanish (speaking Spanish) or just glide them through the oil but the oil has to be very hot. And if the oil is at the right temperature, which, you know, the tortilla will tell you because the moment you put it in it should start bubbling all over in a happy, not very aggressive way.

KAHN: While Jinich toasts the bread for the torta sandwiches, we make our Yucatan pickled onions, which couldn't be easier. It's just sliced onions, that bitter orange substitute and spices tossed in a jar with a whole roasted jalapeno and a big shake. Now time for assembly.

JINICH: And then you can decide if you want to add a little bit more of the turkey pibil on top and then we're going to add the pickled onion.

KAHN: Oh, those colors are just amazing.

JINICH: Aren't they beautiful?

KAHN: The orange and red of the pibil and then the purple and the red of the onions and on those cafe colored tortillas. It's just amazing. That's really good.


KAHN: That was chef Pati Jinich. You can get her new book "Mexican Today" in the spring. We'll put the full recipe for her pibil turkey sauce and pickled onions on our Facebook page. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.