Feasts & Festivities with Bricia Lopez
Nov 09, 2023
This season, we're reflecting on the food traditions that make the holidays most meaningful to us. We'll be highlighting chefs, tastemakers, and friends as they share some favorite festive meals and well-seasoned memories.
Bricia Lopez is an esteemed entrepreneur, restaurateur, and author. She is a pivotal figure in the Los Angeles culinary landscape who has helped propel Oaxacan cuisine to the forefront of the modern food scene.
As many of us are putting the final touches on our holiday menus, we’re chatting with Bricia about her favorite memories and meals, plus her recipe for a smoky and rich spin on the typical turkey.
Words and Photos by: Bricia Lopez
On Holidays in Oaxaca
In Oaxaca, the holidays come to life starting November 2nd. The entire city feels like a big family gathering, with the irresistible smells of pan de muerto and mole lingering through the air as the streets are painted in the bright oranges and yellows of cempasúchil flowers. Everywhere you go, you can catch the smoky scents of roasted chiles and the comforting aroma of copal.
Her Favorite Memories
My favorite memories? Being in the kitchen with the women from my family and community, all laughing, sharing stories, and, of course, cooking. They'd chat about the good old days, the latest town gossip, all while making sure their masa for tamales and that bubbling pot of mole were seasoned to perfection. It was right there in that bustling kitchen that I learned about the magic of sazón, that secret touch that makes every dish uniquely ours. And the unsung hero behind that magic? A not-so-simple pinch of salt. Because, believe it or not, without that right touch of salt, the meal just isn't complete.
Brined Turkey con Mole Negro
For the Brined Turkey:
- 1 turkey (medium or large), thawed
- 3 gallons water
- 1 ¾ cup Kosher Sea Salt
- 1 ½ cup white sugar
- 10 juniper berries
- 15 black peppercorns
- 6 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp mexican oregano
- ½ bunch thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 cups chicken stock or water
For the Mole Negro:
- 16 ounces Guelaguetza Mole Negro Starter
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 cups chicken stock
- ¼ tsp Kosher Sea Salt
- 1 Tbsp Oaxacan chocolate (can substitute brown sugar)
To make the mole sauce, mix mole starter with the tomato sauce in a large saucepan. Stir and simmer on medium heat until paste is fully dissolved, then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once cooked, remove from the heat and season with salt and Oaxacan chocolate (or brown sugar) and set aside. This should make about 6 cups of sauce.
To make the turkey, place all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and place on high heat. Stir occasionally to ensure the salt and sugar dissolve. Once the brine reaches a boil, remove from heat and allow to reach room temperature.
In a separate container, add the turkey then the brine to cover. Place the turkey in a refrigerator for at least 12 but no more than 24 hours. Once brined, remove the turkey from the liquid and discard the brine. Rinse the outside of the turkey and the cavity of any remaining brine, then pat the turkey dry and set aside in a roasting tray at room temperature for 40 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 450°F. Once preheated, add the chicken stock or water to the bottom of the roasting tray and place the turkey in the oven, breast side up. Reduce the heat to 350°F.
Baste the turkey every 45 minutes to ensure even browning and that the turkey stays moist. If the breasts or legs begin to darken faster than the rest of the bird, place a layer of foil over the darker spots to protect it. Depending on the weight of the bird, the cook time should be between 3-4 hours. The internal temperature of the turkey should be at least 165 degrees at its thickest point.
Once cooked, allow the turkey to rest for 40 minutes. Once rested, carve the turkey and serve with mole negro.