Pasteles de Yuca | There are three things you must have on the table for a proper Puerto Rican Christmas pernil, arroz con gandules, and pasteles! This post is all about pasteles de yuca, the most magical treat wrapped in a banana leaf.
If you’re not familiar with pasteles they can be a little hard to describe. Some people with compare them to tamales except that they are nothing like tamales except that they are labor intensive and wrapped. Traditional pasteles are made with a mixture of yautia (taro root), plantain, green banana, and sometimes kabocha pumpkin. These pasteles are made with yuca root or cassava.
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 in it is difficult to find someone who makes and sells pasteles, I decided to make my own. Besides its more fun to make them yourself.
If you decided to take on this endeavor, it is best if done with some helping hands. It’s a tradition for the family to gather in the kitchen and make a pasteles assembly line. In order to make it easier it is best if the process is divided over 2 or 3 days. Trust me trying to make pasteles from start to finish all in one day is exhausting.
There are two versions of pasteles, pasteles de masa which is made with a mixture of plantain, green banana, kabocha pumpkin and yautia (malanga), and the other is made with a seasoned mixture of yuca root. My favorite is yuca root, so that is what I am going to show you today.
Thankfully making pasteles has become easier with the advances in modern technology. Gone are the times of hand grating yautia and plantains. Today we have food processors with shredding blades and the pressure cooker that cooks in half the time. Unfortunately, the process of peeling yautia, plantains, and green bananas are still up to us. If you have never peeled a plantain or green banana check out this tutorial on How to Peel a Plantain.
Gathering around the table with family assembling pasteles is a bonding Christmas tradition. It’s a gathering of generations, with the older generation passing down culinary traditions to the younger. And, these traditions are some of the most important to pass on.
ASSEMBLE PASTELES de Yuca
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 yuca 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 whatever makes you happy. pasteles
I always joked that pasteles are the gift you unwrap on Christmas Eve. The moment I pull a pastel from the water and start to unwrap it my mouth begins to water. But, let’s be honest, they aren’t the most attractive dish. And, they were a bear to photograph. But, don’t let the appearance fool you they are tender, savory, and complex in flavor. I dance in my chair every time a pastel lands on my plate. I say with all the confidence in the world one taste of this recipe and your knees will buckle.
I know making pasteles can be hard work but Christmas only happens once a year. The time with family and the passing down of tradition is worth it all. The best part of pasteles is the one that gets lost at the back of the freezer and you find it months later when you’re cleaning out the freezer. It’s like Christmas all over again!
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- 6 tablespoons achiote seeds (annatto)
- 2 cups of vegetable oil
- 3 1/2 - 4 pounds of yuca (also known as cassava)
- 1/2 cup of sofrito
- 1 small beef broth cube
- 2 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- 2 oz of water
- 2 lbs boneless pork shoulder
- 2 oz of sofrito (4 tbs)
- 1 beef broth cube
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- 1 ½ cups of water
- 2 oz of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup Spanish olives cut in half
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 14.5 oz can of garbanzos
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 small jar of pimentos
- Equipment: 12 - 14 oz of banana leaves, wax paper & butchers twine
- 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.
- Combine all filling ingredients in a pressure cooker. Set to cook for 30 minutes. Let it come back to pressure naturally without releasing it.
- Uncover and set to brown/simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool and store in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Cut the yuca into 3-4 pieces. The yucca should be milky white, if it has dark lines, it's no bueno.
- Score the skin, slip the knife under the skin and pry it away from the yuca.
- 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.
- Using the shredder blade on you food processor or a manual grater, grate the yuca. Place the grated yucca root into the food processor using the blade, run the food processor until the yucca fine and pasty.
- Place the yuca paste in a colander lined with cheesecloth, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight to drain.
- 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 until well combined and the yuca has an orange color, set aside until ready to use.
Prep Banana Leaves
- 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.
- Working in batches microwave the banana leaves for 1.5 to 2 minutes, this helps make the leaf more flexible.
Assembly *see video above*
- Set up assembly station with yucca mixture, filling, achiote oil, banana leaves, wax paper squares and butchers twine.
- Lay out a square of wax paper 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 onto the banana leave and spread out into a rectangle.
- 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 paper 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. 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.
Recaito is a very important part of seasoning the masa. Although it can be bought in many Latin and Asian grocery stores in the frozen section homemade is best. It can be made ahead of time and frozen for later use.
Many of the ingredients including the banana leaves can be found at your local Latin or Asian grocery store.
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