A pastelón is a very Puerto Rican version of Shepherds Pie. Now, you might see that I make many comparisons between my Puerto Rican recipes and traditional American recipes. I only do that so that you can see or visualize what the end product of my recipe might look like or taste like. I also use the term "very Puerto Rican" to denote that some of the main ingredients will not be a traditional ingredients. This is a way we particularly use in Puerto Rico.
Table of contents
What is pastelón
Like I said above, a very Puerto Rican version of shepherd's pie, except it, is made with ripe plantains. So you have these sweet crispy plantains encasing your choice of meat, veggies, and cheese. Thinking about it makes my mouth water, and I want to make this dish all over again!
After I made this recipe, I came across different versions of pastelón, and I will try to cover some of the differences here.
Let's start with the one I used for this recipe. For this recipe, I cut the plantains in half, and then I slice them lengthwise into four slices. I also used about four or five plantains. I brown the plantains with no seasoning, no added sugars, nor spices. When It came to building the pastelón or plantain pie, I greased my cast iron skillet and arranged the slices to cover the bottom and the sides of the pan. Filled with meat, added cheese, and topped with plantains. I then baked the dish. This is the way I always saw my mom make it, and this is the way I always thought pastelón is made.
The version I found called for boiling the plantains and mashing them. Then the dish is built like a true shepherd's pie. Ground beef, top with veggies, then cheeses, and finally top with the mashed plantains. I can see that you could use either ripe, green, or PINTÓN plantains (pintón means spotted or dotted, but when something is in between ripe and unripe, we call those items pintos as well.). I guess with either version of pastelón, any plantain would work, but note that if using green plantains, it is harder to manipulate. The ripe plantain's natural sugars make it easier to mashed and mold. I will create this version and share my findings. In the meantime, here is a recipe from PaleoOMG by Juli.
One quick note
Pet-peeve alert!! I highlighted this sentence from the section above because I also keep seeing fried ripe (maduros) tossed in sugar and cinnamon. Although I have eaten some maduros cooked with cinnamon and or sugar, I will admit they are delicious. However, it is not how we eat them in Puerto Rico. The maduros get sweeter the darker the skin gets. At this stage, they have such a high sugar content the plantains quickly turn black when we begin to pan-fry them. Therefore, you will not see added sugar or cinnamon in this recipe. Please be my guest if you still wish to use it, but it is not the way we eat them in Puerto Rico.
Fillings for your pastelón
The traditional filling for pastelón is PICADILLO, but you could fill it with a variety of fillings like:
- Ropa Vieja
- Pulled Pork, or carnitas
- Shredded Chicken
- Crab meat
- A combination of meats and chorizo
- A thick, creamy chicken stew
- Beef stew
- Shrimp and seafood
The combinations are endless.
For best results, use ripe plantains. You want the skin of the plantain to be bright yellow with some black spots. If the plantain is too spotted or almost black, it will not withstand the cooking process. Ripe plantains are sweeter, and due to the sugar content, they are more pliable than green plantains.
I used an 18-inch skillet to make this dish and about 5 to 6 plantains. If you use something smaller, start with 3 or 4 plantains, but honestly, if you have too many, they can always be added to the dish or snacked on. I chose my cast iron because I always choose my cast iron, but a pie dish will also do the trick.
Peel the plantains and cut them in half, then slice each half into 4 long strips or ribbons. Heat a frying pan with enough oil to barely coat the plantains and set to medium-high to heat, then lower to medium to cook the plantains. Due to the high sugar content, the plantain will darken before they are cooked thoroughly. Although we do not want them cooked all the way, we still want to get a nice browning on them. Fry in batches and set aside on a cookie sheet. Try not to stack them.
Traditionally the filling is picadillo, which I have a recipe for here. The beauty of this recipe is that if you know, you will make it in advance, you can make the picadillo the day or days before assembly. Another thought is to make enough picadillo to fill this recipe and some to have leftovers so you can have a quick taco night the next day, or make EMPANADAS!
Another component of the filing is the cheese. Buy a pound of sliced cheese, about ¼" thick. The traditional recipe calls for Swiss cheese. I used Boar's Head Lacey Swiss. I like its mild flavor and creaminess, but use your favorite cheese if you do not have Boar's Head available in your area. Other Puerto Rican/Caribbean best choices to keep this somewhat traditional would be: Gouda cheese or QUESO DE BOLA, Queso de Papa, or Pope's cheese, which is a mild cheddar-like cheese will also work (This cheese was given its name when it was served to the Pope in his visit to Puerto Rico.). Not as traditional choices are; Shredded Colby jack cheese, Havarti will also work great in this application. It is creamy and mild tasting, and of course, Provolone and Mozzarella, the kings of casserole cheeses!
I chose not to add veggies to this dish. Ok, I forgot! Frozen peas and carrots are a great addition. Use 1 to 2 cups of veggies depending on your preference and the size of your dish. Canned veggies work too, but if using frozen veggies, remove them from the freezer before I start peeling the plantains to allow them to thaw out a bit before assembly. Do not cook or reheat the veggies before adding them to the dish. This will overcook them, and the peas will turn grey. If you are making your picadillo the day off, it will be hot enough to steam your veggies inside the casserole.
Assembling the pastelon
- Heat the oven to 350℉.
- Line the bottom and sides of a cast-iron pan or pie dish with plightly fried plantains.
- Brush eggwash on plantains.
- Fill pastelón with choice of filling. I chose picadillo, which is ground beed and added chopped green olives.
- Top the filling with your choice of cheese. I chose the more traditional Swiss Cheese, but Cheddar, Gouda, or a shredded blend would work as well.
- Top Cheese with another layer of plantains.
- Brush another coat of egg wash over the pastelón. The egg wash will bind the plantains together.
So, You have your plantains browned, the filling ready, the cheese is sliced, and the veggies have thawed out (it is ok if they are not fully thawed out).
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Grease the pan. I used a mixture of butter and oil. Either will work.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with the plantain slices. Use the larger pieces to cover the biggest areas. Take smaller pieces to break and fill any holes. We want to cover the bottom as much as possible. Once the bottom is covered, line the sides of the casserole. This is not a necessary step, but I like doing it. Again, cover as much as possible. Make an egg wash of one egg and ½ cup of water. Brush the bottom and sides with the egg wash.
- Place a layer of cheese on the bottom. I did not do this, but I thought of it. When I cut a piece of the pastelon, the pie did not hold as well as I had hoped. So, I woud add a layer of cheese to the bottom.
- Fill with meat filling. If you are using veggies, fill ¾ way, if not usign veggies, fill all the way.
- Add another layer of cheese. Be as generous as you need. Too little cheese will not help bind the layers together.
- Brush cheese layer with egg wash
- Use remainder plantains to cover the pie. See why I told you err on the side of too many plantains? Fill any gaps on the top with smaller pieces.
- Brush top with egg wash and bake. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until internal temperature is 165℉. (165℉ is the safest temperature to reheat any food). Since elements of this dish are cooked at diferent times, the safest way to bring this dish back to temp is by cooking it to 165℉.
Pastelon is an all-inclusive meal. To serve mine, I roasted some broccoli with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a dash of herb de provençe. A side of stewed beans, red or black, is a typical Puerto Rican way of eating this dish with, of course, de added a slice of avocado. A leafy greens salad is another great option of accompaniment for this dish. I hope you enjoy making this recipe. Let me know in the comments below.Print