Puerto Rican Pasteles

Pasteles have a long history, but they are still extremely popular in modern-day Latin American cuisine. They are very common at festivals, family gatherings and parties. This is a very labor-intensive dish; the very same reason why most people buy their “pasteles” from someone who has the experience and the patience to make these, like myself. Puerto Rican pasteles are much more labor intensive than any other due to the masa mixture which consists of a combination of grated green banana, green plantain, taro, and calabazas (tropical pumpkins), and is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil (annatto seeds infused with olive oil). The meat is prepared as a stew and usually contains the combination of pork shoulder, potatoes, chickpeas, olives, and capers seasoned with bay leaves, recaito, tomato sauce, sofrito, fresh garlic, and annatto oil. The pork shoulder can also be replaced with chicken.

Assembling a typical pasteles involves a large sheet of parchment paper, a strip of banana leaf that has been heated over an open flame to make it supple, and a little annatto oil on the leaf. The masa (dough) is then placed on banana leaf and stuffed with meat mixture. The paper is then folded and tied with kitchen string to form packets.

Once made, pasteles can either be cooked in boiling water or frozen for later use. Because they are so labor intensive, large Puerto Rican families often make anywhere from 50-200 or more at a time, especially around the months of November throughout January, “the holiday seasons”. They are usually served with rice and pigeon peas (arroz con gandules), roasted pork, and other holiday foods on the side.

Let’s make this happen…

Masa:
12 green bananas
4 plantains
2-3 lbs. yucca
1-2 lbs. white yautía
1 large calabazas
¾ cups milk
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tbs sofrito
2 tbs annatto oil

Filling:
3-4 lbs. of shoulder pork, skinned and diced into small tiny pieces
3 small Idaho potato, diced into small pieces
1 ½ cup cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans
½ cup sliced Spanish stuffed olives
½ cup of sofrito
3-4 bay leaves
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 batches of parchment paper to roll pastels
Banana leaves – cut into rectangles of 10” x 8” approximately
Cotton kitchen soft twine (pasteles string)

Let’s make this happen…

Masa…

1. Peel all vegetables, diced into small pieces and shred them using a food processor or the old fashion way you can use a hand grated (which will take you all night).
2. Add the sofrito, salt, annatto oil and milk to the masa mixture. Mix it all well to create a homogenous smooth mixture. The annatto oil will provide a bright orange color to the mixture.
3. Add salt to taste, or Sazon Goya con cilantro y achiote, Sazon Goya con ajo y cebolla (Goya seasonings).

Filling…
1. In large stew pot fill half-way with water; add salt and add pork. Bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for an hour.
2. Rise to medium heat, add the rest of ingredients and cook for another ½ hour.
3. Once everything is cooked, add the olives.

Assembling…
1. Place a piece of banana leaf on top of the parchment paper (it’s similar to butcher’s paper).
2. Take a little bit of the sauce of the mixture and wet the banana leaf.
3. Take a large spoonful of masa in the center of the banana leaf. Using the spoon, form a well in the center of the mixture;
4. Place about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the well. Carefully fold the leaf over, in order to cover the filling with masa on all sides.
5. Fold the paper like a letter and fold in the sides to create a compact package. Set aside and continue making/packing them. Repeat this procedure until all the masa mixture has been used. You can now freeze or cook them when you are ready.

Let’s tie them…
1. Take two packs placing them on top of each other (facing two large ends together) and start binding them together with cooking string. Don’t tie to tight (during cooking they will expand).

Cooking

1. In a large pot of water add 2-3 doubles sets of pasteles into water; bring to boil for about 45 minutes or until the masa is cooked; (if pasteles are frozen, place them directly from the freezer onto the boiling water and boil for about 1 hour).
2. Drain them well when you take them out of the water (place them onto a plate and let sit for a minute or two) cut sting and unwrap.
3. Serve over rice, side with pork and salad or just enjoy alone.

BTW: Pasteles can stay in the freezer for up to three months if well sealed and wrapped!!

Enjoy!

Coconut Flan (Flan de Coco)

Let’s make this happen….

• ¾ cup white sugar
• 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
• 1 (12 fluid ounce) can coconut milk (Goya)
• 8 eggs
• 1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut
• 4 oz Philadelphia original cream cheese

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place 1 cup of the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook gently, without stirring, but shaking occasionally until the sugar has melted. Continue cooking until the sugar has completely melted and turned golden brown; then add 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk. Pour into a large, glass baking dish. Spread the caramel evenly over the bottom of the dish, then set aside to cool for 15 minutes before proceeding.

3. Once the caramel has hardened, shred coconut over caramel.

4. Pour the condensed milk, coconut milk, cream cheese and eggs into a blender. Blend for 3-5 minutes until smooth. Pour into baking dish over the caramel.

5. Pour 2 cups of cold water into larger deep baking pan, then place glass baking dish into the larger baking pan. You want to prevent the burning of the caramel and helps keeps the flan from sinking. Bake in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or until set. When done, remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the dish to separate the flan from the sides. Refrigerate overnight. Place flat dish over baking pan, flip and enjoy!

Señores y Señoras, Puerto Rican Rice & Beans

Here is a very tasty and simple good dish that is commonly made in every Latino  household any given day of the week. Traditional this dish is served with Pork Chops and a salad.  Do you know this actually tastes better after the beans have sat in the fridge for a day or two.  *NOTE: Your Pork Chops can be fired, baked or BBQ. Then placed them in a very lightly papered greased crock-pot using EVOO along with 1 cup water and 1 tbsp of the sofrito; cooked until the Pork Chops becomes tender; Served with Red Kidney Beans, White Rice and Salad.

Let’s make this happen,

1 (16 ounce) Goya bag of Red Kidney beans (rinse and boil for an hour, drain put aside until ready to use)  or for a quick fix you can use a  can of Red Kidney beans.

Use natural seasonings people, cumin, cilantro, sea salt, and peppercorn (Stay away from the adobo it is high in sodium).

1 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin Olive oil)

½ can of Goya tomato sauce; 1 Peeled, diced potatoes

½ cup of slice cooked ham or ½ cup pork grinds (small cubed)

2 cloves of fresh crushed garlic; 1 (5 g) packet sazon con azafran seasoning (commonly used in the Latino kitchen, it has such good flavors)

1 to 2 tablespoons of sofrito (homemade~see receipt below) it also comes pre-made in freezer or jarred, a necessary ingredient in the Latino cooking community)

2 cups of white rice, uncooked

Directions:

1) Made by Goya products & brand can be found in the Spanish/Latin section of your grocery store; Cook white rice follow instructions on package.

2) In deep saucepan, place ham or pork grinds into low-medium heated olive oil.

3) Once it starts to sizzle, add the garlic and seasoning, simmer low.

4) Then add the potatoes, sofrito and sazon con Azafran seasoning, stir.

5) Next add red beans and add one cup of water into mixtures.

6) Let it cook for another ½ hour, serve over white rice and side it with Pork Chops and salad.

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Puerto Rican Sofrito

2 bunches Cilantro
2 bunches recao
1 head of garlic
3 large red onions
3 large green or red bell peppers
2 tbsp. crushed oregano
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

Prepare the ingredients – peel, wash, and seeded and coarsely chop; place into food processor, chop for 2-3 minutes; Storage/Freezer: You can use old ice-cube trays (to be used for smaller dishes) or place into medium sized Tupperware. Leave one in your fridge for the week.

Enjoy,

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Dedicated to my friend, Silvy: It has been just a few short months, but feels like a lifetime of  infinity.   I just thought I’d write to let you know you’re an amazing friend and hope our memories will continue to grow. You lift my spirits when I am down and showed me you are always there when no else is.  You’re not afraid to speak your mind and let me do the same. You’re a fun person to have around and help keep my feet firmly on the ground…someone special in my past life had pasted this poem onto me and said someday I would do the same, so I am pasting this on to you my friend….

A friend is someone with whom, your thoughts,
dreams and secrets you can share.
And no matter what you say or do, you know
that they still care.

A friend is always ready to laugh
with you when you are glad.
But has shoulder for you to cry on
at those times when you are sad.

A friend always want the best for you
And they are not happy until you are too.

A friend is never jealous
of the things you may attain.
And if you are the winner you will
not hear them complain.

A friend is a person who could spend every day
with you, from beginning to end.

When you find someone like this they are more
than a friend they are a …BEST FRIEND