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Surviving Holiday Cooking: Daisy Martinezs Best Kept Secrets (and her recipe for Roast Turkey)

When it comes to holidays, spending time with family and friends is the ideal. However, the season so often becomes hectic and harried, with memorable moments taking a backseat to hustle and bustle. If you’re already staring down your own holiday schedule, wondering how you’ll get it all done, Food Network’s Daisy Martinez is here to help. Feisty, smart, and full of energy Daisy isn’t content with the holiday bustle taking over precious time with loved ones

With four children of her own and a bustling career as a celebrity chef, Daisy recognizes how busy life can be. After one particularly busy year Daisy declared a no-cook holiday. She was too tired. The thought of preparing a Thanksgiving feast was more than she could bear. The family would be dining at a restaurant for the holiday. She recounts, “When I told the kids, my oldest son (who was away at college then) literally pouted. He wanted the smells in the morning of the homemade food. Those food memories are such a part of the glue that holds a family together. Those are memories that you share.”

Making the most of those memorable holiday moments isn’t hard, but there is an art to it. Thankfully, Daisy has honed that art down to a science. Better yet, she’s willing to share a few of her best secrets to no-stress holiday success. “I’m a working mom. I develop recipes and tips with that in mind,” she dishes, “It’s the little things. Anything you can do to create memories is going to make it special.”

1) Keep it simple. Thanksgiving dinner is a big meal, but it doesn’t have to be difficult to make. Daisy’s favorite recipe for turkey is a simple one: “garlic, peppercorn, oregano, salt, olive oil. Just make that into a paste and rub it under the skin of the turkey and in the cavity. That’s my basic turkey recipe. That’s it.” If simple isn’t your style, Daisy’s new book Daisy’s Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining offers “The great thing about the recipes in the book, they give the holidays a little twinkle. They’re traditional with a spin. They’re “The Mother-in-Law Is Coming To Dinner” special. 99% of the recipes are time and user friendly.” For instance, her recipe for Achiote-Rubbed Roast Turkey with Manchamanteles (below) sounds fussy, but is really quite easy to make.

2) Get Organized. “Organization! Organization! Organization!” It’s the key to success, says Daisy. ” I’m always looking ahead, very schedule oriented. Three weeks before the holiday, I write in a schedule for myself in a little notebook. I can prep and freeze anything I can beforehand (appertizers, little empanadas, little egg rolls, mini sliders without the breads). It keeps me from pulling my hair out the day of a celebration. There’s always gremlins in the kitchen right before any big meal, so staying organized helps keep those gremlins at bay.” Don’t want to organize? Don’t know where to start? Daisy’s new book contains Crazy Daisy schedules for each menu, which include step by step instructions down to a half hour before the guests arrive.

3) Don’t Do It Alone. Involve your family in your holiday preparations, they are the best part of the holiday’s. Rather than locking her family out of the kitchen, Daisy puts everyone in her family to work. “They are a part of it. Everyone had their own specialty. When that food is served, everyone has had a part in preparing it.” Even little children can help. When Daisy’s youngest daughter was young, she’s invite her to decorate. “I’d ask her make me a paper turkey. Make me an ornament for the tree.” Involving your family offers more opportunities for bonding and memory making. It allows you to enjoy the process, not just the end product.

4) Let go of the Ideal. “My Christmas tree didn’t have to look magazine worthy. The kids made the chains. That’s what made my Christmas tree special. No that it you could see it on a catalog, but because you could see the family when you looked at it.” It’s easy to worry about making every detail of the holiday perfect. But, Daisy has learned that the best holiday’s aren’t about having everything just right, they are really about gathering the warmth of your family around, enjoying the time together, making memories with each other. “If you ask them, my kids can’t remember what they got for Christmas. But they can tell you exactly what they ate for dinner.”

Daisy’s Achiote-Rubbed Roast Turkey with Manchamanteles
from Daisy’s Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining

One 12- to 14-pound turkey (preferably
free-range and/or organic)

For the achiote rub:
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon achiote seeds
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns

1. Make the manchamanteles up to 3 days in advance.

2. Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey. Save them for broth.
Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold water and drain off as much water as
possible. Blot the turkey dry inside and out with a wad of paper towels.
Make the achiote rub and season the turkey:

3. Heat the olive oil and achiote seeds in a small skillet over low heat until the seeds are
sizzling and the oil begins to darken. Let the seeds sizzle for 1 minute, then strain the oil
into a small heatproof bowl. With a garlic press, press the garlic cloves into the oil. (Adding the garlic to the hot oil mellows it out a little bit and takes out the “sting.”) Stir in the salt
and the peppercorns and let the oil cool to room temperature.

4. Loosen the skin over the turkey breast and as much of the legs as you can by working your
fingers gently (to avoid tearing the skin) in between the meat and skin. Flip the turkey
over and do the same to as much of the skin over the back as you can. Using your fingers,
work the achiote rub into the meat under all the loosened skin and inside the cavity of the
turkey. Truss the turkey legs with kitchen twine and smear any remaining rub over the
turkey skin.

5. Put the turkey, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered,
for up to 2 days (the longer, the better) (Refrigerating the turkey helps dry the skin, making
it crispier after roasting.)

6. Take the turkey out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature about 30 minutes
before you plan to cook it. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.

7. Pour 1 cup water into the roasting pan. Roast the turkey, breast side down, for 45 minutes,
then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer
inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from any bone, registers 155°F,
about 3¼ hours total cooking time for a 14-pound turkey, or 14 minutes per pound. About
30 minutes before the turkey is done, turn it breast side up on the rack. (A pair of oven
mitts that you’re willing to toss into the laundry basket afterward is a good way to turn
the turkey. The turkey will continue to cook and the temperature to rise after taking it out
of the oven. The final temperature you’re looking for is 165°F. The joint where the wing
connects to the breastbone is another good place to check the temperature.) Let the
turkey stand for about 30 minutes before carving. Fill a gravy boat with manchamanteles
and pass it separately.

Manchamanteles
Makes about 7 cups
2 ripe medium plum tomatoes (about 8 ounces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion (about 1¼ pounds),
halved, then cut into thin slices (about
4 cups)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup ancho chile paste (see Note)
6 cups homemade or store-bought
chicken broth, or as needed
One 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, with juice
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into
¼-inch dice (about 1½ cups)
4 ounces dried apricots, cut into ¼-inch
dice (about 2⁄3 cup)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Kosher or fine sea salt

1. Core the tomatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Heat a small, heavy skillet (preferably
cast iron) over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes, skin side down, and
cook, turning once, until charred on most of both sides, about 8 minutes. Set them aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring
often, until it just begins to take on some color, about 8 minutes. Add the oregano and continue
cooking until the onion is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cumin, then
the ancho paste. Keep stirring and cooking until the onion is coated with the chile paste.
Stir in the 6 cups broth and heat to boiling, then slip in the charred tomatoes. Adjust the
heat so the sauce is simmering and cook until the onion is very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Working in batches, blend the sauce base until smooth. To avoid splattering, either cool
the sauce to tepid or work in very small batches and use a folded-up kitchen towel to
clamp the lid to the blender while it’s running. Rinse out the skillet.

4. Return the sauce base to the skillet. Stir in the pineapple with its juice, the mango, apricots,
cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and pepper. Season lightly with salt and bring to a
boil, then adjust the heat so the sauce is simmering. Cook until the sauce is slightly thickened
(enough to coat a spoon) and takes on a nice shine, about 20 minutes. If the sauce
becomes too thick, add small amounts of broth as necessary. The sauce may be prepared
up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated.

Daisy Martinez is the star of Viva Daisy!,  which debuted on the Food Network in January 2009.  She launched ner career with the PBS series Daisy Cooks! and a cookbook based on the show.  She has appeared on the Today show and The Early Show, and has been featured in the Washington Post, Reader’s Digets, and AARP VIVA, among other publications.  A dedicated mother of four fantasic children, Daisy and her family reside in Brooklyn, New York.

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