Pastelón de Plátano Maduro (aka Sweet Plantain Lasagna)
I’d been wanting to give Pastelón de Plátano Maduro, aka Sweet Plantain Lasagna a try for so long now, it’s not even funny.
At the same time, though, I was a little bit scared… I mean after all, the combination of plantains and ground beef always sounded kind of strange to me, to say the least. Add tomato sauce and cheese to that equation and things just get plain weird.
Still… I was extremely curious and just HAD to try it, so I started perusing the Internet in search of the perfect authentic Pastelón recipe.
It turns out Pastelón is just like good ole’ lasagna… there must be about 3 million different variations of the same dish, all of them sharing a few common similarities.
One of those similarities would be that the plantain tends to get fried before it is added to the dish. I, however, felt that the dish was already pretty high in calories as it was, so I thought I would skip that step and simply boil my plantains instead. Surely that would to the trick… And it did!
Other than that, most recipes call for ground beef, onions, tomato sauce and cheese, along with a few select herbs and spices. Some will have you add bell peppers, olives, raisins, dates, or even figs… Some also add a liquid egg mixture to the dish, while others leave it out.
I kinda went ahead and created my own version of what I imagined my ideal Pastelón to be. Honestly, this thing turned out so incredibly good, I almost regret taking the plunge…
I think I’m totally addicted.
Honestly, if you’ve been on the fence about trying this exotic dish, I say you should definitely give it a try. Who knows, it may very well become one of your favorites!
Get started and preheat your oven to 375°F
Trim the ends off the plantains and place them in a large stock pot filled with salted boiling water.
Cover and boil for 20 minutes.
Then, using a pair of kitchen tongs, carefully remove the plantains to a plate and allow them to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until they can safely be handled with your bare fingers.
Despite what you might think, plantains don’t become super soft and mushy after they’ve been boiled; In fact, they remain surprisingly firm and still hold their shape quite nicely, so don’t worry if your plantains pop and burst open like this one; this is actually desirable! It’ll only make the starchy fruits that much easier to peel.
But first, they gotta cool a little, so let’s just set them aside for now.
While the plantains are cooling, cook the ground beef in a large skillet set over medium heat, until it becomes nicely brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions get slightly softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Throw in the apple cider vinegar, spices, Bay leaves, olives, dates, raisins, tomato paste and water.
If you’re not a fan of olives, capers would make a good replacement, I think… but to be honest, the olives are so brilliant in there, it would be a shame to leave them out, so I’m really hoping that you won’t have to. Fingers crossed that you’re a fan!
Stir the meat mixture until all the ingredients are well combined and cook, stirring from time to time, until the water is almost completely evaporated and the mixture is thick and creamy.
Kill the heat and set that aside.
Whatever you do, don’t taste this now, or you’ll want to sit yourself down with that pan and eat it all!
Alright, our plantains should be cool enough by now, so I think we can safely go ahead and peel them.
See how easy that peel comes off? That’s why I said you shouldn’t worry about it if the fruits swell and pop open during the cooking process. If that doesn’t happen though and their peel remains intact, simply run a paring knife along the length of the fruit, then slide your fingers under the peel; it will come right off for you.
To assemble the pastelón, start by arranging a layer of plantains at the bottom of a lightly greased square baking dish.
You don’t imperatively have to grease that dish, but it will most definitely help the plantain not stick to it. Just a super thin layer of ghee, or coconut oil, will do the trick.
Try and arrange the slices so they completely cover the bottom of the dish. You’re gonna want to use a little more than the equivalent of one fruit. In fact, you will need 5 or 6 slices for your final top layer, the nicest looking ones of course, so you may want to put those aside right away, and then split the rest of the slices between two piles; use one of those two piles to build this current layer.
Next, top your layer of plantains with about half the beef mixture.
Repeat with a second layer of plantain, top with the rest of the meat, and finish off with your “select” slices of plantain. You just want to cover the meat, but not completely hide it.
Now sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese all over the top and place the pastelón in the oven.
If you’d rather keep this dairy free, although I haven’ tried it, I get the feeling that unsweetened dried coconut flakes would make for a fantastically delicious replacement for the Parmesan. I know… it’s all super weird flavor combinations, but in a strange way, it totally, completely works. Really!
This is one of those dishes that you can totally go wild with!
Time to throw your pastelón in the oven. Bake it uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the slices of plantain on top as well as the cheese (or coconut flakes) get beautifully golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
If you were to serve this right away, not only would it be way too hot and you’d risk burning your mouth, but it would also totally fall apart. So be patient. Set the table, go for a walk… go feed the dogs or something!
I know, the wait is pure torture. The house is probably smelling SOOOOO good right about now. But be good; wait it out.That first bite will only be that much better…
And if you’re not entirely sold after that first bite, I can almost guarantee that you’ll be totally hooked by the fifth one, and by the time that piece is completely gone, you’ll be ready to do just about anything for another one.
Pastelon de Platano Maduro
- 4 yellow plantains
- 2 lb lean ground beef
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground ground cumin
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1-1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 20 large pitted green olives, pitted and halved
- 8 pitted dates, chopped
- 1/4 cup organic raisins
- 1 - 6oz can tomato paste,
- 3 cups water
- 2.5 oz fresh parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- Trim the ends off the plantains and place them in a large stock pot filled with salted boiling water. Cover and boil for 20 minutes.
- Then, using a pair of kitchen tongs, carefully remove the plantains to a plate and allow them to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, or until they can safely be handled with bare hands.
- While the plantains are cooling, cook the ground beef in a large skillet set over medium heat, until it becomes nicely brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions are slightly softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Throw in the apple cider vinegar, spices, Bay leaves, olives, dates, raisins, tomato paste and water. Stir until well combined and cook until the water is almost completely evaporated and the mixture is thick and creamy. Kill the heat.
- Delicately peel the plantains; good thing is once they are cooked, their peel is extremely easy to remove, especially if your plantains have swollen and cracked open in the cooking process. If the peel is still intact, simply run a paring knife along the length of the fruit. Slide your fingers under the peel; it will come right off.
- To assemble the pastelón: place a layer of plantains at the bottom of a lightly greased square baking dish, then top with about half the beef mixture. Repeat with a layer of plantain, then meat, followed with another few slices of plantain, just to cover the meat but not completely.
- Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese all over the top and place the pastelón in the oven. Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the plantains on top as well as the cheese get beautifully golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.