Pasteles: Nothing Like the Holidays
* Green bananas, peeled and chopped -- 5
* Green plantain, peeled and chopped -- 1
* Yautía (taro root), peeled and chopped -- 1 1/2 pounds
* Russet potato, peeled and chopped -- 1
* Salt -- to taste
* Onion, chopped -- 1
* Green pepper, seeded and chopped -- 1
* Garlic, peeled and chopped -- 3-4 cloves
* Oil -- 2-3 tablespoons
* Pork butt or shoulder, cut into small cubes -- 2 pounds
* Tomato sauce -- 1 cup
* Water -- 1/2 cup
* Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 bunch
* Oregano, dried -- 2 teaspoons
* Salt and pepper -- to taste
* Banana leaves, hard spine removed and cut into 12x6-inch rectangles -- 15 pieces
* Parchment paper, cut into 12x6-inch rectangles -- 15 pieces
* Kitchen string --15 (20-inch long) pieces and 30 (10-inch long) pieces
* Achiote or vegetable oil -- 1/4 cup
Masa: As you chop the bananas, plantain, yautía and potato, place the chunks into a large pot of cold, salted water to keep them from browning. Drain the water and puree the chopped ingredients in batches in a food processor. Add a little water or milk as needed to make a soft dough with the consistency of cooked oatmeal. You may have to let the processor run for a while, and make sure to scrape down the sides. Remove the masa to a large bowl and season with salt. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
Filling: Add the onion, pepper and garlic to a food process and pulse to chop finely. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion-pepper mixture and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning and allow to cool.
Assembly: Get the masa, the pork filling and all of your assembly ingredients together in a workspace. Lay out a piece of parchment paper, then center a piece of banana leaf over it. Wipe the banana leaf dry and then brush the top side with achiote or vegetable oil. Scoop up 1/2 cup of the masa and place in the middle of the banana leaf. Spread evenly over the leaf, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Place 2-3 tablespoons of pork filling in the middle of the masa. Fold the top edge down over the filling. Bring the bottom edge up over this. Then fold in both sides to make a rectangular packages. Be careful not to wrap it too tightly or the filling will squeeze out. Flip the package over on the parchment so it is seam side down. Fold the bottom of the parchment up over the wrapped package. Fold in each side, then roll up, burrito-like, to complete the package. Tie one of the 20-inch pieces of string around the pastel lengthwise and then three 10-inch pieces across the short side. Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil on the stove. Drop in the prepared pasteles and boil gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the water with tongs, remove the outer parchment and serve the pasteles with or without their banana leaf wrapping. Goes well with arroz con gandules.
Pairs Well With
Pasteles are Puerto Rican special occasion food. The whole family usually gets together assembly-line-style to make large numbers of these starchy, tamal-like cakes and get them ready for the boiling pot. No Boricuan Christmas is complete without pasteles.