So when I told you about Lori’s birthday party, I left out one small detail: it ended quite abruptly with the birthday girl breaking her humerus. Needless to say the poor lady has been a bit housebound since the fall, and quite honestly I’ve begun to miss her quite a bit. So I asked if I could come over sometime this week and make dinner.
Turns out requesting to utilize Eric’s kitchen (“my sanctuary”, as he puts it) is quite the hefty ask. So I should be flattered that he said ‘yes’ without the slightest hesitation, even opening up his spice cabinet for me to pilfer as I see fit.
This recipe is exactly what I had in mind when I made my new year’s resolution to try new things in the kitchen. In fact I’ve had this recipe saved for nearly a year, I’ve just been waiting for the right time to make it. I had a feeling said right time would be for Lori and Eric. That’s not unusual. If you’re someone close to me, I probably have at least one recipe saved that I want to cook specifically for you.
But anyways, Pastelón is a traditional Latin American casserole. It’s similar to a lasagna, except with fried plantains in the place of noodles and a more complexly flavored meat base. Had me at ‘plantains’. Ok, maybe had me at ‘fried.’
My only concern was whether I’d be able to find ripe plantains at the local grocery store. I knew things were going my way on Sunday when Safeway had exactly five very ripe plantains.
Don’t be freaked out that they look like rotten bananas. On the inside, they’re still perfectly yellow. To peel, cut the ends and gently slice a line lengthwise. See, they’re really not rotten or bruised:
You know what else had me excited about this recipe? That it came with the following disclaimer: “I take no responsibility for enlargement of waist lines, addition of dimples to the thigh and buttocks area or lectures from your cardiologist. Proceed at your own risk.” Seriously, if that doesn’t make you want something, I don’t know what does.
I served it with a wedge salad with homemade blue cheese dressing.
Not because a traditional wedge salad has any business being served with Latin American cuisine… I just happen to be drawn to the simplicity of wedge salads at the moment. Why don’t I eat more wedge salads?!
Pastelón: Puerto Rican Sweet Plantain Lasagna
From The Noshery
- 1 1/4 lbs ground beef
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 gloves garlic, minced
- 1 green pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 chopped cilantro
- 2 tsp adobo
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 Tbs vinegar
- 1 envelope sazón
- 3 bay leaves
- 10 green stuffed olives, halved
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 5 plantains, peeled and sliced into strips
- 5 eggs
- 4 Tbs milk
- 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
- oil of choice (I used peanut oil)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a casserole dish. I increased the recipe slightly and used a 3 qt lasagna pan, but you could certainly use a 2 qt square pan for a thicker casserole.
In a large bowl, combine, beef, onion, pepper, garlic, cilantro, adobo, oregano, vinegar and sazon. Mix well.
Heat a large skillet at medium-high heat with 2 Tbs of oil. Add meat mixture.
Cook beef over medium heat until browned. bay leaves, olives, raisins and tomato sauce. Mix and let simmer for about 10 minutes while frying your plantains, occasionally asking your friend to stir with her non-broken arm.
Kindly ask your husband to run to CVS to grab shredded cheese, which is still sitting happily in your refrigerator at home.
Heat a large frying pan with enough oil to coat the bottom. Find a tall handsome ginger and ask him to fry the plantains for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden and slightly crispy. Drain on a plate with paper towel, set aside.
To assemble: Take your buttered pan, start with a layer of plantains, than beef, then a fistful of cheese, repeat. You want to finish with cheese and plantains. Beat eggs and milk in a small bowl and pour over the pastelón. Let it sit for a minute allowing the egg to soak in. Top off with a bit more cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes and serve to your very hungry friends.