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Brought to you by: Mayra Soto Guzman, Puerto Rico
U.S. to Metric and Metric to U.S.
2 pounds boneless lean pork meat (picnic shoulder or cali)
2 ounces of sofrito
1 small beef broth cube
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
1 ½ cups of water
2 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
28 small green olives (stuffed with pimientos), cut in half from top to bottom
2 Tbsp capers Optional: garbanzos (chick peas), raisins
6 Tbsp achiote seeds (annato)
1 ½ cups of vegetable oil
3 ½ - 4 pounds of yuca (sometimes spelled yucca, and also known as cassava)
1 cup of sofrito
1 small beef broth cube
2 tsp salt
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp oregano
2 ounces of water
Parchment paper (at least 20 sheets - 12" x 17")
Plantain leaves (if available)
It's a good idea to break down the whole procedure into two days: grate the 'masa' the day before you want to actually prepare the pasteles, then do the rest the following day.
The reason is twofold:
1. You need to strain the white milky liquid from the yuca, and the easiest way of doing this is to let the grated yuca sit in a cheesecloth or fine strainer (over a bowl, covered) overnight, in the refrigerator.
2. Breaking the work into two days makes it a little easier. If you need to do it all in one day, it can be done, but you'll need to twist the cheesecloth tightly and squeeze the milky water from the grated yuca.
(All you'll need on Day 1 is the yuca, the achiote, and the oil for the achiote)
1. Prepare the achiote oil:
In a saucepan, gently simmer the achiote seeds in the oil until the oil turns dark red. Remove from heat. Let cool. Strain the seeds from the oil and discard the seeds. Keep the cooled oil in a covered jar or other container. You can leave it out, or refrigerate it. You will use this oil in the "Masa", in the filling, and for wrapping the pasteles. (on Day 2)
2. Prepare the Masa:
Peel the waxy skin off the yuca with a vegetable peeler or small knife. The inside of the yuca should look snow white, and will be firm to hard.
Cut the yuca into pieces that you can comfortably handle- about the size of a stick of butter. Carefully cut each piece lengthwise to reveal a woody stalk in the center of the yuca. It's roughly the width of a toothpick, and runs the entire length. Cut it out by making a 'V' cut, and discard- we want our masa to be smooth!
You can try grating the yuca the old fashioned way by using a hand grater- on the side that has the jagged holes poking out at you. I'll warn you that it will be a little workout, though. And watch your fingers!
The other option is to use a food processor with the grating blade- much easier!
Just feed the pieces a little at a time - any stubborn pieces that hang around will be dealt with in the next step.
Remove the grated yuca from the processor, switch the grating blade to the regular cutting blade, add the yuca back to the machine and pulse for about 2 - 3 minutes to create a moist, finely grated mixture that is the consistency of grated parmesan cheese- just a little wetter.
Place the masa into a strainer that is lined with a cheesecloth. (If you have a very fine strainer, you don't need the cheesecloth). Place the strainer with the masa over a bowl (to let the yuca masa to drip into), then cover with some plastic wrap, and place into the refrigerator until the next day when you are ready to finish the pasteles.
Note that we only used the first ingredient (the yuca) for the masa on Day 1! The seasonings will be added the day you finish the pasteles. (Day 2)
3. Remove the masa from the refigerator. It will have dripped several ounces of its liquid in the bowl- discard the liquid.
4. Prepare the filling:
Wash the pork meat with vinegar. Cut the meat into ½ inch cubes (about the size of a small broth cube), trying to use only the non-fatty meat for this dish (you don't want any surprises when you eat a pastel !)
In a saucepan, use 2 ounces of the achiote oil that you prepared, and simmer the 2 ounces of sofrito in it on low heat for 3 -5 minutes.
Add the rest of the filling ingredients (except the last 3 ingredients: the olive oil, the olives and the capers) to the saucepan, bring to a boil, lower the flame.
Simmer for approximately 1 - 1½ hours on low heat, covered. Take care that the water does not completely evaporate- if the sauce gets too thick, add a couple ounces of water.
The meat should be cooked, but it should not fall apart when done, so check every 15 minutes once an hour has passed. (Don't eat all the meat like I do, 'cause you won't have any filling left!)
When the meat is done, remove from heat and let cool. You should have some gravy left with the meat, but it shouldn't be too watery. If it looks dry, add 2 ounces of water. In either case, now add the olive oil that was part of the last 3 ingredients (I didn't forget- now we still have the olives and capers left, but we add those as we wrap the pasteles).
Note: The reason you add the extra virgin olive oil now is to keep its delicate flavor! You can always use regular olive oil, but the extra virgin is the first pressing of the olive, and has more flavor.
While the meat is simmering, you can start seasoning the masa, but be sure and go back to the previous step to finish up the meat!
5. Season the masa:
In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, use 2 ounces of the achiote oil that you prepared, and simmer the 1 cup of sofrito in it for approximately 5 minutes. It should be sizzling slowly, not just steaming a little.
Add the 2 ounces of water and the rest of the ingredients listed (except the masa!). Simmer another 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
In a large saucepan, bowl, or tray, add the masa that you had removed from the regrigerator. Now add the sofrito that you just removed from the heat, and mix well.
Add a half cup of the achiote oil to this, and mix again. Your masa should now have some color, and should have a good taste! If not, review the steps carefully- you might have missed something.
If you haven't finished the last part of the meat, do so now. Otherwise, you're ready to wrap the pasteles!
6. Wrap the pasteles:
Use twenty bundles of plantain leaves. They should be long and wide. (You may use the parchment paper instead, or use the plantain leaf within a sheet of parchment paper.)
Note: If you can get the plantain leaf, do use it! It adds a world of a difference in taste to your pasteles!
With a knife, remove the central ridge of the plantain leaves to give greater flexibility to the leaves. Divide leaves into pieces, about 12 inches square. Wash and clean leaves with a damp cloth and toast slightly over an open flame (such as the stove burner on low). This makes the leaf more pliable.
You should still have about ½ cup of achiote oil left. Place 1 tsp of the achiote on the leaf, or the parchment paper. Spread it out to the size of a postcard (4" x 5"). Next, place 3 Tbsp of the masa on the leaf (or paper) and spread it out thinly over the oil that you just spread out.
Place 1 ½ - 2 Tbsp of the meat filling in the center of the masa.
Place 2 olive halves on top of the masa
Place 2 capers on top of the masa
Note: At this point, individuality kicks in: some people add a couple of raisins, or a couple of garbanzos, or a strip of red peppers, or a dash of hot sauce, or all of the above! It's your preference, so add the things you personally like, so that your pasteles are an extension of your taste!
Fold the leaf (or paper, or leaf on top of paper) one long half over towards the other. It won't actually get to the other end, but you have created a top and bottom layer of plantain leaf and enclosed the contents in it.
Now fold both of those back towards the end that you first started from (making the crease at the far edge of the masa inside), while keeping in mind that you are sort of duplicating the shape of the rectangle of oil that you first made!
Fold it once more, if you need to use up some paper. Then fold the right and left ends of the leaf toward the center.
Tie the pasteles together in pairs (or alone), with a string, placing the folded edges facing each other. They should be tied from both sides, to prevent them from opening.
This recipe yields approximately 12 -14 pasteles.
7. Cook the pasteles:
In Large pot, bring to a boil 5 qts of water with 1Tbsp salt. Add 12 pasteles and boil, covered, for one hour. Halfway, turn over pasteles. After the hour, remove pasteles from the water at once, and place in a strainer.
Unwrap and enjoy. ¡Buen Provecho!
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