Friday, April 22, 2016

Puerto Rican Pastelón de Amarillos

Pastelón de amarillos is the third recipe I have made from A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz. This dish intrigued me. The dish is layers of yellow plantains, and a ground meat mixture, that is topped off with green beans. It is kind of the Puerto Rican take on lasagna. I had fond memories of eating plantains as a boy. My dad had been deployed to Puerto Rico when I was young. He tried to have mom recreate some of those dishes. She did her best, but dad was not that good at explaining it. One dish was a baked and mashed plantain dish. It was like a baked potato. We added butter to it. It was slightly sweet.

Plantains, to those unfamiliar, are a variety of banana. They are starchier than standard bananas. They are kind of like a cross between a banana and a potato. They are used in Caribbean cuisine like the potato is used in American cuisine. Green plantains are not sweet, yellow plantains are sweeter, and black plantains, maduros, are the sweetest. Maduros are typically used in desserts.

Last year I went to Borikén, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Beaverton, Oregon. I had several plantain dishes there, mofongo con carne frita (mashed fried plantains with fried meat), alcapurrias (plantain fritters stuffed with meat), and tostones (twice fried plantains). I have a dream dish that includes tostones. When I was gifted the Puerto Rican cookbook, soon after the trip to Borikén, I was excited. I had a few Puerto Rican dishes in The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith, more is always better.

I made the dish on March 14, 2016. I shopped around to find the cheapest plantains. The ingredients are ground beef (I used ground turkey instead), yellow plantains, mozzarella cheese, eggs, green beans, plum tomatoes, tomato sauce, recaito, manzanilla olives, oregano, and salt. The recipe included golden raisins and black pepper; I did not use those due to dietary restrictions in the family. There were four main steps: cooking the green beans (this step was assumed in the recipe), browning the meat and adding the other components to the mixture, frying the plantains, and finally baking the components together in one dish.

The plantains and the meat mixture are layered together. I cooked the liquids down too much and baked the dish a little longer than needed. In the past I had trouble with eggs not setting. This led to a slightly drier dish. Next time there will be a little more liquid in the meat and less baking time. The flavors were spot on. The saltiness from the meat contrasted wonderfully with the sweetness from the plantains. This is dish in now in my repertoire.

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