Many of us who live in the East Bay have stepped outside in the morning to find wild turkeys hanging out in our front yard. Turkeys are native to North America, not only were they an important food source for the Native American tribes, but also for the indigenous peoples of Mexico. While many consider chicken mole to be a quintessential Mexican dish, the truth is, chickens did not exist in Mexico until introduced by the Spanish after the conquest. In Oaxaca, for thousands of years, “guajolote” or wild turkey, was the traditional protein to be served with mole negro, and it continues to be served today as special dish on festive occasions such as Christmas.
I have always felt that turkey is an under-appreciated meat in American restaurant culture. Other than our yearly Thanksgiving dinner, it rarely is served other than as a sandwich filling. Perhaps it is because it is a larger bird, many chefs find it difficult to create a dish that is appropriately proportional for an individual diner, but with a menu that emphasizes sharing with our “platos fuertes” section, I saw a perfect opportunity to get turkey on the menu. My thought process was to both keep things traditionally Mexican by serving our roasted turkey with a trio of our moles, while accompanying the main dish with a Mexican spin on a traditionally American vegetable: collard greens, braised with bacon, habanero chiles and lime. Of course, as do all of our “platos fuertes”, it also comes with rice, black beans and tortillas.
It has been really fun to see this dish that germinated from a simple idea develop a cult following among our guests, earning a regular spot in our daily rotating menu. I just hope that the plump Tom that was giving me the evil eye this morning from my front lawn isn’t plotting his revenge.