November 20, 2012

Pre-Prepared Pre-Thanksgiving from Cascajares

I was greeted with an agreeable surprise the other day when a messenger showed up at my door with the new Thanksgiving Day Turkey made by Spanish company Cascajares - experts in the field of gourmet pre-prepared fare like roasted suckling pig and stuffed capons. Their latest adventure, in collaboration with USA-based Spanish chef José Andrés, is a Thanksgiving turkey, pre-cooked and ready to pop in the oven for half an hour, and accompanied with all the fixings (stuffing, chestnut puree, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, gravy and mashed potatoes). Still a work in progress with only 1,000 turkeys being sold this year, I was super excited when the company offered to send me one to get an authentic American point of view on the product. Anxious to do my part, I dutifully invited some true blue americanas around this weekend to size up this new design. While I am still in the midst of constructing my full report, I thought I could get a jump on the whole thing with a few photos and first impressions.

While the box is enormous, everyone's first thought was that the photo of the plate doesn't do justice to the typical American portion sizes on Thanksgiving - a day when it's all about heaping it on. We were dubious as to the 8-10 portion serving size indicated on the box and worried we might not have enough. I made another tray of stuffing just in case. In the end, while the sides might not be sufficient for 8 people, the turkey had more than enough delicious meat, and three days later I am still enjoying the last of it (there were 5 of us at lunch).

The turkey and the gravy were the best part and truly tasted just as they should. I really have no complaints other than the fact that the meat might have been slightly dry (which happens to my turkeys as well from time to time), and maybe we would have benefited from more specific cooking instructions (30-45 minutes at no specified temperature). The bird comes with some gravy in the cooking package and I confess that I did rub the whole thing in butter and pepper before chucking it in the oven...once an American. It really was good and has now turned into an absolutely wonderful and flavorful turkey stock.

The most disappointing aspects were undoubtedly the sides, which lacked a bit of oomph and texture in terms of presentation and quantity. The gravy was delicious, especially when I mixed it with the juices that came off the bird in the oven. The cranberry sauce was good flavor-wise, but was completely pureed and needed some whole berries (and maybe gelatin) to give it some texture. The apple compote was fine and the chestnut puree correct though really sweet, but neither one seem necessary to me and don't add much in terms of presentation or texture either as they are both similarly toned brown purees. The stuffing was flavorful, but with basically only onions, celery and bread, it was kind of boring and lacked color and herbs. I have never had a stuffing without sage, or at the very LEAST thyme. And my least favorite were the mashed potatoes which were very runny and also needed more structure and texture. In any case, they are on the right track and hopefully will continue to tweak the products during the year to come. The product is intended for an American audience (the company has a newly minted factory in Canada), but also for people all over the world.

Cascajares President, Alfonso Jiménz Rodríguez-Villa carving the turkey at the US Embassy (the Ambassador is pictured directly across from him). Other guests included the President of Castilla-Leon, Rafael Ansón (the President of the Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy and José Andrés).
On a side note, Cascajares held a press conference in the American Embassy last Friday with José Andrés and the American Ambassador Alan Solomont and his wife Susan. It was lots of fun to watch them explain to the Spanish press about the meaning of Thanksgiving (my hands-down favorite holiday) and the significance of the turkey and the meal. Then they dove into a turkey lunch with about a million reporters snapping photos around them.

Despite any misgivings I have about trying to replicate this home cooked favorite, I truly admire the company for what they are trying to do and think that they are well on their way to achieving it. Oh, and for 120 Euros a box, it's not a bad deal at all - especially if you can't cook and it saves doing the shopping and cleaning.

More information to follow and also on

(Acción de) Gracias!

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