If you have heard “We wanna wish you a Merry Christmas x3 from the bottom of my heart” during the holidays, you may wonder about the artist… Jose Feliciano is Puerto Rican. I can hear it on the radio quite a few times from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The wonders of a little island can reach far beyond its physical boundaries with the help of many Puerto Ricans spread abroad. I hope this pasteles boricuas can give you the same feeling as the song gives me.
Christmas after Maria
This season has been tough for many that have families and friends in Puerto Rico and even harder for the about 3.4 million living in Puerto Rico. Many of us wanted to go, celebrate the holidays at home and couldn’t or postponed for a later time. It’s been a weird season for me. I haven’t had the same Christmas spirit this year as years’ past. While I am not in Puerto Rico today physically, my heart and mind are there with all my family. I will get to see them very soon and have our own Christmas. Until then, I will hold on to my Christmas coquito, pasteles boricuas, and pernil asado. I will sure post the occasion and recipes here once it happens.
My Best Wishes to All
I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad like the song says, “from the bottom of my heart”. I hope Boricua On the Moon reaches more people next year and the Puerto Rican community and friends expands over every corner of the Earth. We are good people! I want more people to know about our contributions to the world, besides Hurricane Maria, political corruption, and public debt. The world needs to know more about our culture because knowledge is power as Francis Bacon said and that’s half the battle. I want the future generation of puerto ricans born abroad, like my daughter, to learn about our traditions and country, including our cooking.
My Mixed Traditions
I had a mixed Christmas where I cook Chinese food, my husband’s tradition, with some Puerto Rican, my tradition. Today, we sat on the table with my husband’s family to enjoy dinner and a good time. They are part Cajuns, so flavor and holiday cheer went all around and was very lovely. Here it goes to family time when we can get them! Treasure every minute you can with family and friends!
Boricua on the Moon
- 10 lbs yautia / malanga root yellow or purple, peeled and cut in 2″ long pieces
- 5 lbs Colombian pumpkin or Acorn Squash, peeled and cut in slices about 2″ wide
- 12 green bananas peeled and halved
- 3 plantains peeled and halved
- 3 white potatoes peeled and cut in quarters, optional
- 1 cup oil
- 1/2 cup achiote or annatto seeds
- 1.5 cup milk
- 3-4 tbsp all purpose adobo season to taste
- 3 tbsp Himalayan Pink Salt season to taste
- 2 envelops Coriander & Annatto Seasoning
- 1.5 cup pork stew liquid
- 1 package Paper for Pasteles & Tamales
- 1 bag Plantain or Banana Tree Leaves
- 1 roll cooking twine
- 1 can chick peas large
- 2 12oz jars sweet roasted red peppers
- Peeled the green bananas, green plantains, malanga roots, pumpkin and/or acorn squash, and white potatoes, if using. Cut them into squares or pieces easy to handle. These veggies will be grated to make the masa for pasteles.
- Using a grating machine or a grater, grate the vegetables. It takes a long time to grate all these vegetables with a grater. The machine takes about 30-45 mins depending on the size of the pieces and speed. I use a KitchenAid adapter for my mixer and then a blender to get the masa smoother and finer.
- Prepare the annatto/achiote oil by heating up the oil in medium low with about 1/2 cup annatto seeds. After about 5-10 minutes of warming up, the oil will turn red-orange. This oil will be used for the masa and the pork.
- After the masa is smooth and finely grated, season with adobo, achiote oil, salt, and start with 1 cup of milk. Start with 2 tbsp of adobo and 1 tbsp of salt and taste the masa with the annatto oil and milk. Note: You can add more adobo, salt, and annatto oil depending on your taste later on after the pork is ready and you add 1 cup of the pork liquid to the masa.
- Prepare the pork by cutting it in pieces of 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. Season with adobo and/or salt to taste.
- Heat up a big pot that can hold the pork or do the pork in batches. I use two big IMUSA pots and cook the pork there at medium heat with a lid for about 40 minutes or more until is fork tender. Note: An alternative is to use your instant pot with 1-2 cups of water or broth to make sure it seals and cook using the meat cycle for 20 minutes. Do several batches.
- Once the pork is done, add 1 cup of the liquid to the masa and finish seasoning the masa to your taste as mentioned above.
- Cut the sweet roasted peppers in thin slices and set in a bowl. Prepare an area large enough to hold the cooked pork, the masa, the leaves, the chick peas, the paper, and twine to assemble the pasteles.
- Prepare the leaves by smoking them using a gas stove, open fire, or the stove. It takes the longest on the stove so I recommend a gas stove like I use or a small, contained fire on a outdoor fireplace, smoker or grill. I turn the burner on medium, pass the leave over the burner so the heat makes it softer and easier to handle. The color will change from one side getting shinier as you can see in the picture. Cut in pieces of about 5-8 inches wide. Once the leaves are cut, clean each piece with a clean wet rag or paper towel.
- The white paper should be cut in half to manage it easier. If not, fold the paper in half and then line up with the plantain/banana leaf piece. Line the two pieces as seen in the picture, the leaf goes diagonal to the white paper. The white paper at the bottom and the plantain/banana leaf piece at the top.
- Wet the center of the leaf with the liquid from the pork. I use a little spoon with just the tip with liquid. Spread the liquid over the center of the leaf. Add about a 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of masa. I normally use a big metal spoon and that’s my measure for masa on the pasteles. You can think of tamales, but bit bigger in size.
- Add a spoonful of pork with a similar serving metal spoon as used for the masa. On top of the pork, add 3-5 chick peas from the can and 1 thin slice of sweet roasted pepper.
- To fold the pastel, be careful not to spill the masa, but some may come out. Match the corner of the white paper closest to you with the corner on the other side of the diagonal the leaf is forming. My mom use to say Punta con Punta so corner to corner and with your hand make like you are scoping the pastel a bit closer to you so you can leave room to fold. Keeping everything on the table and holding the pastel, roll it over until you get to the end of the leaf. At this point, fold the ends like wrapping a present, inwards towards the center of the pastel. With the two ends at the center of the pastel, set it on the table with the ends side down on the table. Repeat the process with another pastel so you can tie two pasteles together.
- Use the twine to wrap the long side of the two pasteles with their ends facing each other, then the short side and you should end up with a pastel looking like a Christmas present with twine. Tie the twine at the end of the wrapping so it holds the two pasteles while boiling. You can do individual pasteles as well.
- Boil the two pasteles in water seasoned with salt, corriander, garlic and a quarter or half onion. Boil for about 30-40 minutes at medium high heat if they are fresh. If the pasteles are frozen, it takes about 1hr for 1-3 yuntas, which is how the two pasteles together is called. Once cooked, take them out of the water, drain, and unwrap them. If fully cooked, the masa will be seen all one color and not looked like raw masa. Enjoy with fries, rice, or fried pork. I sometimes dip in ketchup, but not too much.