Feliz Navidad - Recipes

Suckling pig is carried through the streets cooked and ready for the Christmas Eve feast. Flickmor Photo

Roasted Pork Leg (Ecuador)

Patricia Moyano’s family gatherings at Christmas were big ones, and this favorite recipe she passed along from laylita.com, is enough to feed a hungry crowd and is possibly more than the average home oven can handle. If you’re cooking for a smaller gathering or don’t have enough space in your fridge to let a 20-pound pork leg marinate, you’ll want to halve the recipe.

Serves about 40.


20 lbs. whole pork leg

Juice of 3 limes

40 garlic cloves, crushed

3 Tbsp. ground cumin

3 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. ground pepper

8 cups of beer for marinating, 6 cups of beer for baking

3 sticks butter

2 Tbsp. ground achiote or annatto seed

8-10 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half (optional)


Place clean pork leg in a large non-reactive roasting pan, checking first to see that it fits in both the fridge and the oven.

Mix crushed garlic, ground cumin, salt, — pepper, the aliño.

Drizzle the lime juice over the pork leg. Make several deep incisions on both sides of pork leg and stuff with aliño, leaving enough to also rub all over the meat.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Pour eight cups of beer over pork leg and let marinate another 48 hours, turning every six to eight hours.

Preheat oven to 400 and bake the pork for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, melt a stick of butter over low heat in a small saucepan, then stir in one tablespoon of the ground achiote and mix well.

Lower the oven to 350 and pour the melted butter mix over the pork leg. Baste the pork every 20 minutes or so to keep from drying out. When pan sauces dry up, melt remaining two sticks butter over low heat, mix in remaining six cups of beer and one tablespoon achiote and pour over the pork leg, making sure the mix is hot so the pork skin doesn’t crack.

After about three hours, turn the pork leg over and lower the oven to 325. Continue basting every 20 minutes. After another three hours, turn the leg over again. Place any skin that separates back over the meat and bake for the final two hours. Add potatoes, at this point to absorb sauce.

Cooking time for a 20-pound pork leg should be about eight hours. When finished, the meat will have an internal temperature of 160.

Tamales Canarios (Mexico)

Most of what Beatriz Rivas cooks is made from memory, taste, and feel, so it’s hard to share specific recipes with family and friends. This one for sweet tamales canarios is a close approximation of the version she makes for her family at Christmas.


2 sticks butter

2 lbs rice flour

2 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup chocolate chips

1/2 liter (slightly more than 2 cups) milk

2 handfuls of corn husks


1 cup rompope (a Mexican eggnog)

1/2 cup condensed milk

1/2 cup milk

Soak the corn husks in hot water until they are soft, then remove, pat dry, and set aside. Beat the butter at high speed until creamy. Sift the rice flour and baking powder, then add to the butter, little by little while continuing to beat. With beater or mixer still going, add the milk, little by little. Fold in chocolate chips. (Raisins can be substituted.)

Put two tablespoons of the dough in each leaf, fold it, and place upright in a steamer. Steam for 30 minutes over medium heat or until done. The tamales should separate easily from the corn husk when finished.

For the sauce, in a large bowl, whisk the rompope together with the milk and condensed milk and serve separately alongside tamales.


Pave de Nozes  Walnut Pudding (Brazil)

For Cream Filling:

2 cans condensed milk

1 can regular milk (use empty condensed milk can to measure)

1 can Nestle or Moca evaporated milk without liquid (these brands are creamier than American evaporated milk, alternatively, using condensed milk can, measure one can of heavy cream)

3 egg yolks

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

For the Body:

1 1/2 packages of Goya Maria cookies or Rich tea biscuits*

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

*Available at most supermarkets, usually vanilla flavored.

For the cream filling, add all ingredients to a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Set aside.

Pour some of the cream filling into the bottom of a rectangular glass baking dish. Dip cookies in milk, just to get wet and place on top of cream layer. Alternate layers of cream and cookies, finishing with a layer of cream. Top with chopped walnuts, or decorate it with larger pieces of walnuts.

Refrigerate for at least three hours, preferably overnight.


Canelazo (Ecuador/Peru)

This spiced cinnamon drink is often served with aguardiente, a strong liquor popular in Ecuador and other parts of South America. Here on the South Fork, Patricia Moyano and her family use a brand called Zhumir.

This recipe, found on about.com comes from Marian Blazes, but it only serves four, so you’ll definitely want to expand for a party.


3 cups water

2/3 cup light brown sugar

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of salt

1 tsp. whole cloves

4-6 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup orange juice

4 oz. aguardiente or rum, or more to taste (optional)

Bring the water, sugar, lime juice, salt, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with aguardiente or rum.

Ponche (Mexico)

Beatriz Rivas offered ingredients, but no measurements for this warm punch often served at Christmastime. But even without measurements, a good cook should be able to turn it all into something tasty. Fill a large pot with water and add cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil and reduce temperature, add at least six quartered apples, peeled and seeded tejocote (which can be found frozen and sometimes fresh in Latin markets), sugarcane cut into three to four-inch pieces, guava, peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces, raisins, and hibiscus flower.

Simmer for at least 30 minutes, or as long as several hours. Add piloncillo or dark brown sugar to taste, “because all the fruit is sweet. Serve plain or with tequila or a liquor of choice for an extra kick.

Bottom: When Las Posadas bring visitors to the door in Mexico, tamales are almost always on hand for the celebration. Carissa Katz
Pannetone is as popular a holiday treat in South America as it is here, and in Peru, Diana Argote said, it was always served with hot chocolate, even though Christmas falls in the summertime. Nicola Since 1972 Photo