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12.23.2014

A Puerto Rican Christmas Tradition: Pasteles (White-o-Rican Style)

This is my interpretation of pasteles (pah-steh-lehs), a classic Puerto Rican dish which is traditionally served during the holidays, Christmas in particular. I have fond memories of watching my grandmother make these and even fonder memories of eating them! 

Traditionally pork is used in the filling, but I don't care for pork, so I use a mixture of turkey and ground beef. Also keep in mind that every Puerto Rican chef prepares their dishes a little differently and that's what makes them so spectacular... That's why there's nothing like your Abuela's arroz con pollo or your Titi's picadillo! 

On a side note I will say that it's much easier to use a food processor to grate the yucca, but preparing it the way I watched my Mama (my grandmother) do brings me a little closer to her since she's no longer with us. That said, either way it is a long and arduous process, one which is best done via an "assembly line" in the company of people you love. 


Masa
:
6 ripe plantains (they need to be almost black)
3 pounds yucca
1 pound potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp achiote (annoto) powder
1 tsp salt

Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion (diced)
2 bell peppers (diced)
1 tbsp adobo seasoning
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp reciato (or sofrito - it's a personal preference really)
1 bay leave
1 small jar manzanilla olives

Assembly:
Parchment paper
Banana leaves
Kitchen twine
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil

To Prepare to Filling:
Add all of the filling ingredients together in a large skillet *except the olives* and cook until the meat is cooked through.
Drain off the excess juices and discard the bay leaf. Set it aside and let it cool.


To Prepare the Masa:
Peel the plantains like you would a banana and discard the peels. 
Peel the yucca and potatoes with a potato peeler. 
Grate the yucca and potatoes. 
In a bowl add the plantains, grated yucca, grated potatoes, salt, olive oil, and achiote powder. 
Using a potato masher, mash everything together until a thick pasty dough forms. 


To Assemble the Pasteles:
Cut out thirty 16x16 inch sheets of parchment paper.
Cut out thirty 14x4 inch pieces of banana leaf. (These measurements don't have to be exact, by the way...)
Cut thirty 2 ft lengths of twine.
Lay one banana leaf piece on top of one piece of parchment paper.


Brush olive oil on the surface of the leaf.
Top the leaf with 1/4 cup of the masa and spread it out, making sure to leave the edges of the banana leaf bare.
Top the masa with 2 heaping tbsp of the meat filling.
Place an olive in the middle.


Fold the leaf/parchment paper over in half.
Tuck the ends into it to make a package.
Now continue folding it over until you have a rectangle shape package.



Tie the bundle up with a piece of twine.
Repeat thirty times.


Cooking:
At this point you should have thirty pasteles. Though you may be tempted to eat all thirty at once, that's probably not the best idea ever... So you may freeze what you're not going to eat immediately and cook the rest.

To cook the pasteles you simply bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the pasteles for 1 hour.


Once they're done cooking, cut the twine and unwrap them. You will discard the parchment paper, twine, and banana leaf as they have served their purpose! 


Now you just eat and enjoy! Feliz Navidad!! 

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