PASTELON: PLAINTAIN & PICADILLO CASSEROLE
Makes: 12 buffet servings
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 1 hour
9 fully ripe plantains (see Note)
For the Picadillo (makes 4 cups)
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1½ lb. ground beef, pork or turkey
Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup sofrito
¼ cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TSP ground cumin
Pinch ground clove (if using beef or pork)
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
½ cup raisins, optional
To Finish the Pastelon:
1 TBSP butter, softened
1 TBSP vegetable oil
12 extra-large eggs
Read Related: Holiday Casseroles: Tamal de Cazuela
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray the paper with cooking spray.
- Peel the plantains and cut them on a sharp diagonal into ½ inch slices. The slices should be about 3 inches long (shorter near the ends). Line the plantain slices up side by side and spray the tops with cooking spray. Bake until well browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Pile the plantain slices up on a plate to cool. Repeat as necessary with the remaining plantains.
- While the plantains are baking, make the picadillo: Spray a large deep skillet with vegetable cooking spray. Set over high heat and crumble the ground beef into it. Cook, stirring, until all traces of pink are gone, about 4 minutes. Add the sofrito and cook, stirring, until the liquid from the beef and sofrito is evaporated and the mixture is sizzling, about 6 minutes. Add the alcaparrado, tomato paste, cumin, clove and salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat (so the tomato paste doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn) and cook until the tomato paste changes color, a minute or two.
- If necessary, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Add the flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add ¼ cup water, raise the heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Stir in the raisins and check the seasonings and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Remember, you want a well-seasoned picadillo to balance the sweetness of the plantains. Cool the picadillo while baking the rest of the plantains.
- Assemble the pastelon: Grease the bottom and sides of a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet with the butter, then pour the oil over the butter. Cover the bottom of the pan by making concentric circles of overlapping cooked plantain slices. Spoon the picadillo over the plantains and smooth into an even layer. Cover the picadillo (as you covered the bottom of the pan) with concentric circles of overlapping plantain slices. The pastelon can be assembled to this point up to an hour in advance and kept at room temperature covered with a damp kitchen towel or several thicknesses of damp paper towels.
- Heat the skillet over medium-low heat just until you can hear sizzling. Reduce the heat to low and very slowly pour the beaten eggs around the edges of the pan and over the top of the pastelon. Pour in as much of the egg as you can without overfilling the pan. Run a heat-resistant spatula around the edges of the pan, separating the plantains and picadillo from the side of the pan and letting the egg from the top seep around the sides of the pan, making room for more egg. When all the liquid egg has set up, add the remaining egg and continue running the spatula around the edge of the pan until that batch of egg is set and the pastelon “drinks” up the rest of the egg. Set the skillet in the oven and bake until bubbling around the edges and the center is set, about 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before serving. The pastelon will stay warm enough to serve (if left in the pan) for to an hour. Unmold it (see below) just before serving.
- Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan to make sure the pastelon won’t stick to the pan. The pastelon can be served directly from the pan, which is easiest to do with an offset spatula. Or for a more dramatic presentation, invert the pastelon onto a serving platter: Choose a large round serving platter—if it has a rim, the “well” of the plate should be at least an inch or two wider than the pan. Put the platter upside down over the pastelon. With a pot holder or oven mitt, grasp the pan handle with one hand and use the other hand to clamp the platter in place over the pastelon. Invert the pan and the platter. Be brave and use one quick motion. Leave the pan in place for a few minutes, then gently lift it. If any of the plantains stick to the pan, simply scrape them off and re-place them on top of the pastelon. Cut into wedges using a very sharp knife and a gentle sawing motion.
Note: The ideal plantains for making this version of pastelon are completely black, but not at all mushy. If you were to fry the plantain slices (as is done traditionally) instead of baking them, a slightly less ripe plantain is ideal. Frying will soften up a plantain much more than baking. If there’s any question about whether your plantains are ripe enough to make pastelon, it is better to err on the side of riper rather than “greener” plantains. The sweet flavor of ripe plantains is a key part of this dish.
• Save the ends of the plantains, which aren’t neat little slices, to plug up odd little spots in the top and bottom layers of the pastelon.
• A heavy, well seasoned cast-iron skillet is really the best pan for this. It will cook the underside of the pastelon evenly and gently and the seasoned finish reduces the chances of the pastelon sticking when it comes time to invert it.
• Add a little heat to the picadillo by seasoning it to taste with chile powder or crushed red pepper flakes.
• Spike the filling by soaking the raisins in rum or brandy for an hour or so and drain them before adding them to the picadillo.
• Substitute ground chicken or turkey for the ground beef.
• For an earthy note, soak a handful of dried mushrooms in hot water to cover. Drain and rinse them well, then chop them coarsely. Add along with the sofrtio when making the picadillo.
This recipe first appeared in Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night (Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.) which is available for purchase here.
Learn more about Daisy Martinez.