Los Angeles

Just Like Ma: The Fam’s Pan Con Pavo

As Fat Girl Food Squad says goodbye and the new year approaches, my mind has been circling around traditions: making new ones and keeping others alive.

While my fellow Latino friends were preparing for their annual Thanksgiving tamalada, a traditional tamale making party, I was left wondering what happened with my family’s traditions? When was the last time I tasted my family’s recipe for tamales? And what traditions does my family hold high?

Once my initial panic settled, I realized that traditions die just like people. My family’s tamales? They disappeared when my paternal grandmother passed. And while I can buy a Salvadorian tamale that has a hint of familiarity, there’s an empty ache when I think of the fact that this recipe and the tamalada tradition in my family home has been put to rest. And while I have to distract the sad ghouls which cling on to the what ifs and if onlys, the long hours of Thanksgiving preparation really cemented what I want to leave behind with my own story and tradition.


First and foremost, I want to leave a legacy of unpoliticized, unwavering love of food; all food. After a childhood steeped in toxic 90s diet culture, little Linda had a complicated relationship with food. And while it took years to accept myself completely, I never want to see another soul face the demons I faced to get to this level of self-love.

Second, I want that love of food to help maintain our family history. May my children and children’s children taste the same food that I hold sacred. May no other family recipe go by the wayside. And may we keep a record of our experiences whether in diary-form or Instagram.

And lastly, live your true self. For this last point, I go back to joining the Fat Girl Food Squad and meeting HBICs Yuli & Ama. In them, I found two women who know themselves and push themselves to success. As I continue on my own journey to the end of this year and beyond, may I find my own voice as strongly as these two and may I cross new lines and make a hell of a scene doing so.

So to honor my story and my family’s history, I present to you the best part of the holidays to me: Pan con Pavo. Translated as bread with turkey, pan con pavo is a sandwich lover’s dream: warm bread stuffed with juicy turkey breast and a crisp array of fresh vegetables covered in a tangy recado (sauce). While Americans usually turn to turkey in November, many Latino families cook the Jurassic bird for various holidays. And Pan con Pavo is the Salvadorian staple that not only take your Thanksgiving leftovers to a whole different level, but are good enough to be your main dish. Trust me, you’ll feel like a stuffed bird by the time you take your last juicy bite. And if you’re anything like my dad, you’ll bragging about the sandwich and the sauce for days; week even. Oh and lastly, it’s a messy one but I promise it’s worth it.

 pan con pavo

Pan Con Pavo


For the sandwich (serves 3):

3 – Bolillo or pan francès (a Mexican bread resembling a baguette)

2 – Roma tomato, sliced

1 – Small cucumber, sliced

1 – Small bunch of watercress, roughly chopped

1 – Small butter lettuce

1 – tsp. Mayonaise or Vegenaise

1 -2 – Handfulls of roasted Turkey


For the sauce (makes enough for a ridiculous amount of sandwiches):

1 can – 6oz of peeled tomatoes

3-4 Cups – Vegetables used while roasting your turkey*

2 Cups – Turkey Drippings

1-2 Cups – Dry white wine

Turkey offal (usually the heart, liver that you roasted with your bird)

Coarse Salt


Crazy Salt**


Let’s begin with the sauce. Place your turkey drippings and offal into a blender or food processor and blend into a fine mixture.


Once smooth, place the mixture into a large sauce pan on medium to high heat. Heat through for two minutes. As the mixture warms up, slowly incorporate the white wine.Keep on medium to high heat for 15 minutes.


Because the wine and the tomatoes will give off a lot of acidity, you will need to reduce the sauce in half, so lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the course salt, pepper, and crazy salt to taste.


You want your final sauce to be a balance of sweet and salty.


Now let’s build the canvas on which that sauce will shine.


Grab one bolillo and slice it open to create a pocket. Push the pillowy interior a bit to create a large enough groove for the rest of your ingredients and apply one spoonful of mayonnaise or veganaise on the inside of the bread.


Adda few butter lettuce leaves, three tomatoe slices and four cucumber slices to one side of bread pocket. It will get a little tight, so be careful not to bust open the sandwich pocket when you force as much turkey breast into the other side.


Ladle some sauce within the pocket of your creation enough to moisten the bread. And finally top with some chopped watercress.


*My family traditionally uses 4 large yellow onions, 1 stalk of celery, and 8 large carrots. If you haven’t roasted your own turkey or prepare your turkey differently, I would recommend roasting these vegetables in olive oil at 350* for 25 minutes or until they are tender.

** Also known as kosher salt, granulated garlic, black pepper, granulated onion, celery salt, crushed sage, & cayenne pepper mixture. Feel free to create your own OR buy some at your local supermarket.

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