Pumpkin flan and mofongo stuffing: How a local Latino restaurant is reinventing Thanksgiving

Roasted turkey (Pavochon Style) for special Thanksgiving menu at Jimmy'Z Kitchen. Photo taken Tuesday November 18, 2021 at Jimmy'Z Kitchen - 2468 Windy Hill Rd SE #600, Marietta, GA 30067 (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Roasted turkey (Pavochon Style) for special Thanksgiving menu at Jimmy'Z Kitchen. Photo taken Tuesday November 18, 2021 at Jimmy'Z Kitchen - 2468 Windy Hill Rd SE #600, Marietta, GA 30067 (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Thanksgiving classics with a Puerto Rican twist

Where some see the Thanksgiving dinner table as the realm of tradition and long-established flavors, others see an opportunity to experiment. Chef Jimmy Carey is squarely among the second camp.

Jimmy’z Kitchen, Carey’s Marietta restaurant with Miami roots, has unveiled a Thanksgiving menu that blends Turkey Day classics with recipes from the chef’s Puerto Rican childhood.

“It definitely kicks it up a notch,” Carey said.

The chef’s Latin take on Thanksgiving began taking shape in a former restaurant in Miami, where the customer base in the heavily Hispanic city was looking for “something not as traditional, not as bland, a different type of flavor in their turkey.”

ExplorePrevious coverage: First Look: Miami and Atlanta chefs open Jimmy’z Kitchen in Marietta

When Carey moved his restaurant to the Atlanta region in 2020, he brought his reinterpretation of Thanksgiving food with him.

“The first time people get it, it’s an adventure, not knowing what they’re getting themselves into,” Carey said. “But then they realize that it’s something they wish they would have known about earlier.”

The menu

Caption
Special Thanksgiving at Jimmy'Z Kitchen in Marietta. (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Special Thanksgiving at Jimmy'Z Kitchen in Marietta. (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Special Thanksgiving at Jimmy'Z Kitchen in Marietta. (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

The centerpiece of Jimmy’z Kitchen’s Thanksgiving menu is, of course, the turkey. The restaurant prepares it “pavochón” style, a portmanteau between the Spanish word for “turkey” (pavo) and lechón, the slow-roasted pork dish prepared across Latin America and a holiday season mainstay.

Carey’s pavochón is a “very bold, very flavorful, Latin-seasoned turkey.”

It all starts with a homemade adobo, a wet marinade with a “garlicky taste profile and a cumin and oregano punch to it,” mixed with sofrito, a mixture of cilantro, onions, peppers and garlic. The mix is used to brine the turkey for several days.

“All that flavor penetrates inside of the turkey. That’s what people are looking for,” Carey said. “It doesn’t mask the flavor of the turkey, but it just adds to it.”

ExploreWhere to get Thanksgiving meals to go in metro Atlanta

Backing up the turkey are arroz con gandules – a combination of rice, pigeon peas, and pork; a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine – and mofongo stuffing. Mofongo is a dish made of fried, unripe plantains mashed together with garlic, pepper, salt and crackling pork rinds.

Carey’s Thanksgiving version omits the pork rinds and features a generous dose of chicken stock, making the mofongo more “loose” and moist, giving it a consistency similar to stuffing.

Caption
Special Thanksgiving featuring from left: mofongo, roasted turkey, Puerto Rican Rice, seasonal vegetables, and pumpkin flan at Jimmy'Z Kitchen, 2468 Windy Hill Rd SE #600, Marietta, GA 30067. Photo taken Tuesday November 18, 2021 (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Special Thanksgiving featuring from left: mofongo, roasted turkey, Puerto Rican Rice, seasonal vegetables, and pumpkin flan at Jimmy'Z Kitchen, 2468 Windy Hill Rd SE #600, Marietta, GA 30067. Photo taken Tuesday November 18, 2021 (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Special Thanksgiving featuring from left: mofongo, roasted turkey, Puerto Rican Rice, seasonal vegetables, and pumpkin flan at Jimmy'Z Kitchen, 2468 Windy Hill Rd SE #600, Marietta, GA 30067. Photo taken Tuesday November 18, 2021 (Ryan Fleisher for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

Credit: Ryan Fleisher

The menu’s last Latin touch comes courtesy of the dessert: pumpkin flan. It’s made with a caramel flan base mixed with roasted pumpkin puree and a trio of autumnal spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, and “a little bit” of clove.

Jimmy’z Kitchen’s full Thanksgiving menu feeds up to 12 people and costs $255. A “turkey/mofongo package” is available for $150.

Lautaro Grinspan is a Report for America corps member covering metro Atlanta’s immigrant communities.

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