Sometimes it pays to be adventurous. One of the first dinners my dear friend from Costa Rica made for us was pastelon de platano maduro. Pastelón de platano de maduro is like a Costa Rican lasagna but you substitute the noodles out for bananas. When she first told me what she was making I was hesitant. But the mixture of the savory meat sauce with the sweet bananas is to die for.
As you know I love family affairs. Parents and children all together laughing and enjoying each others company. I think it’s one of the reasons her and I got along so well. We take our children everywhere with us. Unfortunately, she’s moved away and we miss her and her family dearly. Our littles are thick as thieves (Facetime is always a request). So the other day when my oldest mini overheard me on the phone with her I knew the questions was coming. “Can we have pastelón.”
I knew I had to oblige him. For him pastelón is synonymous with our family friends. So, I went to our Latin American supermarket and bought I pounds and pounds of plantains (also known as maduros) to make pastelón de plantano maduro. A plantain is a type of banana but larger with a much thicker skin. I made sure my plantains were ripe and starting to blacken. When the plantain begins to blacken is when it’s the sweetest. I didn’t want my plantains too black because it didn’t want it so mushy I couldn’t slice it. And boy was it delicious. Not as good as hers but definitely delicious.
It’s interesting how there are foods that we associate with certain people or times in our lives. I know for my mini having that pastelón made him feel like his friend wasn’t so far away. Like he had a little piece of something he could always hold on to remember her by. Hope I made you proud Mrs. Jones.
Note: Many people from the Caribbean and Latin America make pastelón. This particular version is known as pastelón de platano maduro. Each group has their own way. I know people from Puerto Rico who make it this way. As well as people from the Dominican Republic that mash the bananas to make pastelón. Also, if you like picadillo, you can use that meat mixture in your pastelón.
Pastelón de Plantano Maduro: Costa Rican Lasagna
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 2 pounds of lean ground beef (turkey)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1/2 yellow (green) bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon of adobo seasoning
- 1 tablespoon of recaito ( or cilantro, onions, green peppers,salt, garlic & oregano blended in the food processor)
- 2 cups of tomato sauce
- 8 -10 plantains (sliced)
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese (shredded)
- 2 eggs beaten
- 1/4 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup of cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
Tools: 2 heavy bottomed pans and square/rectangular baking pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix adobo and ground beef in a bowl.
In a cast iron pan over medium high heat sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until translucent. Then add garlic
Add ground beef and cook until done about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add tomato sauce and recaito and cilantro and stir until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.
Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer (sauce should begin to look like sloppy joes).
While sauce is simmering begin to peel and fry the plantains.
Begin by cutting the end of the plantains off.
Then use your knife to slice along the peel.
Once peel is off, gently cut plantains into slices.
Fry plantains until golden brown then place on a paper towel.
Place a layer of plantains in the bottom of the pan.
Top the plantains with the meat mixture.
Then top the meat mixture with cheese.
Continue to add layers in this order (depending on the size of your pan your should be able to add two more layers)
Top with plantains.
Mix eggs with milk. Pour egg mixture over dish.
Top with additional cheese and bake for 30 minutes.
Once removed from oven allow pastelón to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.
Cut and top with fresh cilantro.
If you like this, there are a couple of other dishes that play with savory and sweet. Stay tuned. You’ll see it on the blog soon.