I disappeared…fell off the face of the earth…drowned in the everyday hussel and bussel.
I am sorry! Pulling doubles at school to make up for a class and starting my externship put quite the wrench in my schedule. In an effort to extend my deepest apologies and in the spirit of the Christmas season I thought I would show you to make pasteles. If you know what pasteles are you are dancing in your seat. If you don’t know, the best way that I can describe them is the Puerto Rican version of the tamale. Except it’s made with yucca instead of corn meal, wrapped in banana leaves instead of a corn husk and boiled instead of steamed.
Every Puerto Rican table has a spread of pasteles on the table at Christmas time .
I cannot tell a lie, pasteles are a project so a lot of times people will buy them by the dozen from someone who makes them. However being out in Oklahoma it is difficult to find someone who makes and sells pasteles, besides it’s more fun to make them yourself. If you decided to take on this endeavor it is best if done with some helping hands or spread out through two or three days.
There are two versions of pasteles, one is made with a mixture of plantain and yautia (malanga) and the other is made with yucca root. My favorite is yucca root so that is what I am going to show you today.
I found my yucca at the local Asian market but many super markets also carry it now. It is a long narrow root with a bark like and waxy skin.
I have seen many people take a vegetable peeler to yucca root, which can take forever. Luckily enough my mother-in-law taught me a easier and more effective way to peel yucca. Cut the yucca into 3-4 pieces. The yucca should be milky white, if it has dark lines it’s no bueno.
If you look at the edge of the yucca you will you will see a sort of rim between the yucca and it’s skin. I have pointed it out here with a handy dandy arrow.
Score the skin, slip the knife under the skin and pry the it away from the yucca.
Tada! You peeled a yucca root in no time.
Cut the segments in half and expose a small root that runs down the middle of the yucca.
Make a V shaped cut around the root to remove it. Like you would core a pear.
If you are smarter then I, which I am sure all of you are, you will have all of the attachements of your food processor in an easy to find spot and therefore have your shredder blade and rod on hand. If you are like me you have no idea where they are use a mandolin or a box grater to grate the yucca. Using the food processors grater is the preferable method.
Place the grated yucca root into the food processor using the blade, run the food processor until it’s fine and pasty.
Place the yucca paste in a colander lined with cheese cloth, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to drain.
Next made some achiote oil. This gives the pastel and great color and flavor. I also found these annato seeds in the Asian market, be sure that you get seed and not powder.
Heat 1 1/2 – 2 cups of vegetable oil, add 6 tbs of annatto seeds to the oil. Allow the seeds to simmer until the oil reaches a bright red color.
Strain the seeds from the oil and discard the seeds. Allow the oil to cool and store in a sealed container until ready to use.
Now for the filling. Yummy, yummy filling.
You could use any protein that you like as a filling but the most traditional is pork.
Break a boneless pork shoulder down into 1/2 inch cubes.
Season with garlic powder, oregano, onion powder and salt.
In a large skillet heat 1/4 cup of achiote oil and 4 tablespoons of sofrito on low heat for 5 minutes.
Add pork, beef broth cube and 1 cup of water to the skillet.
Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cover, for 30 minutes.
Add garbanzo beans, rasins and olives to the skillet, cover and simmer and additional 15-20 minutes.
The meat should finish tender but not falling apart and with a saucy gravy. If the sauce is too watery uncover and bring to a boil to reduce. Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and combine. Set aside and try your best not to eat it all.
Ok now time to go back to the grated yucca in the fridge. But first we have to make the seasoning or “adobo” .
In a skillet simmer 1/4 cup of achiote oil and 3/4 cup of sofrito for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water, a beef broth cube, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano, simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the seasoning to the grated yucca, mix until combined.
Drizzle 1/2 cup of achiote oil into the yucca.
Mix together until well combined and the yucca has an orange color, set aside until ready to use.
Now time to prep the banana leaves….are you tired yet?
Banana leaves maybe the hardest things to find. I found mine…you guessed it at the Asian market. I really lucked out to find them fresh but I have also seen them frozen. I found them in 4 oz packages and I bought 3 packages. If you cannot find banana leaves you can also use wax paper.
Remove the ridge from the leaves. Cut the banana leaves into 12 x 12 inch squares and wash the banana leaves under warm running water . Place them in a hot oven for 5 minutes or toast them over an open flame, this helps make the leaf more flexible.
Now it’s finally time for assembly. Get everything together, you’ll need the yucca mixture, filling, achiote oil, banana leaves, wax papper squares and butchers twine.
Lay out a square of wax papper and a square of banana leave over it, spread 1 tsp of achiote oil on the banana leaf.
Scoop 1/4 cup of the yucca mixture on to the banana leave and spread out into a square.
Place 2 tbs of filling down the center and top with pimentos if you like.
Using the banana leaf fold the yucca over the filling.
Bring the leaf ends together.
Fold over twice to create a tight seal.
Tuck the ends under, if the banana leaf splits a little don’t stress we are going to fold it again in wax paper.
Do the same wrap and fold with the wax paper. If you use only wax papper I recommend double wrapping.
Tie two pasteles together with butchers twine like a present with the folded ends facing each other. At this point you can get ready to boil them right away or you can freeze them until ready to use. They hold well after the Christmas season and make a easy dinner option.
When ready to cook bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop in pasteles and boil for 45 minutes for fresh and 1 hour for frozen.
Using a pair of tongs pick the pastel out of the water by the string and place on a paper towel.
Cut the string and gently unwrap to reveal a delicious Christmas treat.
It is best to divide this project up over 2 days. You can do this one of two ways. You can choose to make the yucca and the achiote on day one and the filling and assembly on day two or you can do everything on day one and assembly on day two. I prefer the second option but what ever makes you happy.
I know this post is coming a little late but there is still just enough time to squeeze in some pasteles time. Different things mean Christmas to different people. For me pasteles are a big part of Christmas, taking me back to my warm little island with family, friends and a spread of pernil and arroz con gandules.
Feliz Navidad everyone!