RECIPE: Pastelón with Sweet Corn Béchamel – Excerpt From The Kelis Cookbook

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Pastelón, which is a layered casserole of platanos and picadillo (ground meat mixture), is a traditional casserole in Puerto Rican and Dominican cooking. For this version, I use a combination of green plantains, which taste a bit like potatoes, and yellow, ripe plantains, which are obviously sweet. It’s like lasagna, with plantains in place of noodles. I serve it with Sweet Corn Béchamel because I think everything needs sauce. Pastelón is a bit tedious to make, but you make a big casserole dish of it and it’ll last you for a few days. I add chorizo to the meat mixture; I got the idea after my mom told me about a dish of plantains stuffed with chorizo. The contrast between the sweet plantains and the spicy chorizo is amazing.

Serves 6 to 8

6 to 8 plantains (depending on the size; half yellow, half green)
Kosher salt for the boiling water
Canola or vegetable oil for deep frying
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 large Spanish onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 chile verde (California green chili), seeds and membrane removed, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound soft chorizo sausage, meat removed from casings
1 tablespoon saffron threads
2 teaspoons Sazón con Achiote  or
1/4 teaspoon achiote paste, crumbled with your fingers
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons roughly chopped green pimento-stuffed olives
4 ounces hard chorizo, diced
Butter for greasing the baking dish
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces shredded extra-sharp cheddar
Sweet Corn Béchamel


  1. Score the peels of the yellow and green plantains lengthwise and remove and discard the peels. Slice 1/8to 1/4-inch thick lengthwise, keeping the yellow and green separate.
  1. Lay the green plantains flat in a large pot and fill it with water and make a bed of paper towels. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, salt it to taste like the ocean, and boil the plantains until tender, about 30 minutes.

Drain the plantains and put them on paper towels to dry.

  1. Fill a large straight-sided sauté pan 2-inches deep with oil and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.

Make a bed of paper towels. Slide the yellow plantains into the oil and fry until they are golden brown but still soft inside, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oil and lay on the paper towels to drain.

  1. Heat the olive oil in large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add the onion, season with  the pepper, and cook, stirring often, until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the beef, chorizo, saffron, Sazón or achiote paste, oregano, and cumin and cook until the meat is cooked through, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the hard chorizo and olives. Turn off the heat and strain the fat from the meat, spooning out the grease with a large spoon or using paper towels to sop up the grease. Set aside while you prepare the other components of the casserole.

  1. Butter the bottom and sides a large baking dish. Lay the plantain slices in a single layer as you would noodles for lasagna, alternating between green and yellow. Spread 1 cup of the meat mixture over the plantains. Lay down another layer of the plantains and another layer of meat until you have built three layers and have used all of the plantains and meat.
  1. Whisk the egg yolks, cream and pepper together in a small bowl or glass measuring cup and pour evenly over the casserole. Scatter the cheese over the top.

Bake the pastelón for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese bubbles and browns and the egg is set. Remove the pastelón for the oven and set it aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve hot, cut into squares, with the béchamel on the side

Kelis - My Life On A Plate

Recipe found in the Kelis Cookbook, My Life On A Plate Recipes From Around the World available wherever books are sold now.  Published by Kyle Books, priced $24.95.  Photography by David Loftus.

Printed with Permission.

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