In a "Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, Buddy's friend, a relative who was sixty something, would wake up on a chilly crisp autumn day and declare, "It's fruitcake weather!" Yesterday, being the Puerto Rican woman, that I am, I basically declared it's time to think of Pasteles. Pasteles are basically a hybrid between Tamales and an Alcapurria. They are made from green plantains and bananas, yautia (called malanga here in Florida), achiote (which is a red coloring seed), olive oil, sofrito for the meat which can be pork or chicken. The plantains and bananas have to be grated, mixed with a chicken broth, and stirred to a "pancake' consistency. Then you start an assembly line, someone spooning out the "masa" or plantain mix on a green banana leaf, then another adds the meat mixture, the next person the olive, and a garbanzo bean, and an optional raisin, the next person folds the plantain leaf like an envelope and passes it on to the last person who ties it like a gift. I always lay my string down like a u on the table, place the pastel and then pass the string inside the loop, then to the side, and up again and tie a bow. Then it's on to the next pastel.
Does it sound complicated? It is. That is why it's better to make it with family and friends. In olden times people, mainly ladies, would get together to do a pastelada. Everyone would chip in grating the plantains, bananas, and yautia and help cook the meat or simply help pay for the supplies and then help out by putting them together. It was fun to sit around a table and talk about life for a couple of hours and take part in making a delicious almost precooked meal. Puerto Rican style "TV" dinners. You see Pasteles are not completely cooked until you boil them for an hour.
This year I think I might be able to do it, not in Puerto Rico, not in Florida, but in Lansing where I am going to meet with my children and grandchildren. We are all excited just thinking about it. I'm already comparing recipes with my friends. Just this morning I spoke to a close friend and she said she used potatoes to soften hers, as well as, just a little bit of "calabaza" or squash. The potatoes seem a bit unorthodox to me. I don't recall my aunts using them at all, but I do recall the little bit of squash. I think I will be test cooking some of these recipes before I venture to make a whole bunch of pasteles, though. Can't wait to eat them off the green smoky plantain leaf.
I'm dreaming of a white.............., digo, I mean, pasteles......... just like the ones I used to know, with the green leaves folded with a stringgggggggggggggggg, and the olive and garbanzos placed within.....
I know, I know, it sounds a little fruity! It is fruitcake weather, after all.
I made the pasteles after all!