Duarte Family Relleno

Relleno is the spanish word for stuffing and we call it that because it is a recipe from my great-grandmother, Mama Chata. That and it “sounds more exotic,” according to my grandma. The way I think about it is a modified tamale stuffing, or “relleno,” that must have made perfect sense to my great-grandmother when she began celebrating her first Thanksgivings after moving to the United States from Mexico. However it came to be, it is definitely a tradition I am thankful for. Every person that gets their hands on this recipe (only family so far) changes it a little bit so I am going to try and let you see how I have changed it (just a little) with a different color.


For the Shredded Beef (the day before):

  • 3 lbs chuck roast (also called 7 bone roast); boneless or bone-in
  • 2 cubes beef bullion
  • 1 large yellow onion; quartered
  • 3 cloves of garlic; halved (I used 4)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 5 bay leaves
  • water
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp cooking sherry
In the original version you would put everything in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 2 1/2 hours until roast is tender enough to break apart with a fork. I took the roast cut it into 4 large and equal pieces and trimmed as much fat away as I could. I took the fat and placed it in the heated (on low) pot to render some fat from the trimming. After the fat was visible in a liquid form, I added the garlic and onions to sweat them a little. It created that beautiful light brown layer on the bottom of the pan that is just pure flavor that will be incorporated when I add the water. I removed the fat trimmings and added the rest of ingredients, bringing to a boil and then reducing to a simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
My grandma also boils the turkey neck and giblets with the beef. I used to be grossed out by this, but she really just does it for the flavor. I probably would have done it if I were doing a turkey at the same time, but I wasn’t. To hopefully keep the same level of flavor, I got a bone-in roast. Both are optional.
Once the meat is finished cooking. Use two large forks to remove beef from broth and shred. Then strain and save the broth. It will be useful in the remainder of the recipe and can be used for a gravy base or use in other recipes. Cover and store beef and broth in the refrigerator.
For The Relleno:
  • shredded beef
  • 1 yellow onion; diced
  • ¾ cup celery; diced
  • ¾ cup carrots
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 ½ tbsp. sweet relish (3 tbsp.)
  • 1 apple; diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small can black olives
  • chopped bell pepper (optional) <- part of the original recipe, but hasn’t been done for years
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (2 tbsp.) <– the original recipe says 4-5 good shakes, but I measured that out for you
  • 1 ½ tsp. red chili powder
  • paprika
  • 1 package of frozen veggies (peas, green beans, carrots, corn)
  • 1 box of stove top turkey stuffing (with seasoning)
  • ½ cup broth
  • 1 cup cooking sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste
* note: if you are using the mixed veggies bag you can omit the carrots. I like carrots, so I did both! Also I don’t care too much for olives, so I use the whole ones so I can pick them out. Use whatever you prefer. 

Using 2 tbsp of olive oil, or 2 tbsp of the fat from the top of the chilled beef broth, sauté the diced onion, celery, and carrots. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in the beef relish, apple, olives, Worcestershire, red chili powder, paprika (for color) and frozen veggies. Mix well.

When you are near ready to stuff the turkey (or bake casserole style) add in the Stove Top. Add broth and then sherry slowly. Tasting as you go and making sure the bread stuffing does not get too soggy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Use relleno just like you would use a bread stuffing. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes if serving casserole style.

Hope everyone has a safe, heathy, and joyous Thanksgiving!

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