I have been ripening this recipe for weeks. No kidding.
I bought a bunch of plantains on sale (15 for $2) at a Caribbean grocery store three weeks ago, made tostones with some and then let the last 6 get black on my counter. Black, I tell you. Not just mottled yellow, but black and withered, while my son looked on with occasional science experiment interest, sort of a Peter Greenaway film of disintegration but not quite as exquisitely grotesque and not with the speedy convenience of time-lapse photography.
I find already ripened amarillos (yellow plantains) in my regular white-people supermarket (I hate saying non-ethnic, because white people are ethnic too!), but Latin supermarkets are your safest bet.
Pastelón is the Puerto Rican answer to lasagne – or maybe shepherd’s pie – but sweeter, spicier, meatier – all around naughtier. If you love a dish that has balance while being excessive, this is the meal for you!
I had the Seasoned Ground Beef frozen in a pint container and so it was fast and easy — just added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste while it simmered and piled everything together. Just so you know, Leandro took the top off and only ate the meaty insides; the sweet vs. meat thing is not for everyone. But it is definitely FOR ME.
If you would like to try a pastelon with yuca, Click here!
Pastelón de Amarillos
6-7 extremely ripe plantains (they should be more black than yellow or green)
1 tsp salt
Water to cover
1 Tbs butter (plus butter for greasing the baking dish)
1 pt Seasoned Ground Beef (about 1.5 lbs) recipe also below plus 2 Tbs tomato paste
½ Cup grated cheese: parmigiano reggiano or grana padano or mozzarella preferred
Preheat oven to 350. Slice off the top and tail of the plantains. Make a slit down the side, then cut in half. Place in water to cover, with salt, then bring to a boil and then cook for 10-15 minutes (until very soft). Drain, peel and mash with 1 Tbs butter until smooth.
Grease an 8×8 oven dish. Line the bottom with half the plaintain mash, smoothing to cover evenly. Sprinkle with half the grated cheese. Layer the meat on top. Then layer the remaining plantain, smoothing to cover. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in 350 oven until cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes.
Allow to cook for ten minutes and then slice and serve.
BASIC SEASONED GROUND BEEF
(this is half of what I usually do to freeze. To do 3 lbs. at a time, double everything)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 baseball sized onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (go for more if you like – I do!)
1.5 lbs. ground beef
(Optional1/4-1/2 C. chopped red pepper fresh or roasted from a jar)
1/2 tsp adobo powder* (if desired – I generally don’t use it, but some people love the extra salt and the umami)
1 heaping Tbs capers, drained
10 manzanilla olives (pitted and stuffed with pimientos)
(optional 1/2 cup tomatoes from a can – diced, chopped, whatever or a spoonful of tomato paste you need to use up)
Heat oil on high in a large saucepan until thin and fragrant. Add onion and cook, stirring, for two minutes until well coated and getting translucent. Lower heat to fairly low and cook for five minutes, add garlic and cook for another minute. Raise heat to high and crumble in ground beef, stirring and breaking up frequently until fully-browned. Spoon out fat or pour off (don’t make it too dry!) into sink (carefully!).
Return to heat, add red pepper, optional adobo, capers, olives and optional tomato. Mix completely. Lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes until fat begins to separate from sauce. Serve or freeze.
*instead of adobo powder, mix 1/4 tsp salt and 1 Tbs mixed chopped fresh herbs (oregano, rosemary, parsley) or 1 tsp dried