Pastelón

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Honestly, plantains make me happy. Really happy. I had this wonderful meal at a friend’s house last Friday where she made Tostones that reminded me of my trip to Miami. But the star of her dinner was this dish called Pastelón which I had never had before. Upon royally stuffing my face at dinner I found myself picking at this Pastelón all night while we were chatting. Not because I was hungry, but because it was SO GOOD.

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4 ripe plantains (brownish, NOT green)
1 cup butter, cubed
1 pound ground beef
1 white onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 poblano chili, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs tomato paste
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
meat seasoning (I use a seasoning powder, which mainly consists of salt, garlic, pepper, and a little spice. Just use your favorite seasoning.)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil, for cooking

Think of this like a Cuban lasagna; starch layered with meat. It is pretty easy to prepare too. First things first, preheat your oven to 350.

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To start, get a large pot on the stove with boiling water. Chop up your plantains into even inch pieces to help with the cook time.

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Add the plantains to the water and cook for NO MORE than 15 minutes. I recommend around 13 and a 1/2. This way the plantains get soft enough to mash, but the water doesn’t pull all the sugar out.

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While the plantains are cooking down, add some oil to a large saucepan. Throw the onions, bell pepper, and poblano chili into the pan to start cooking down.

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Once the plantains have cooked for the allotted time, drain the water. Add the butter to the pot until it melts.

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Once the butter has melted, mash everything together and form sort of a mashed plantain paste. Set aside.

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The vegetables should be cooked down at this point. Add the minced garlic and stir. Let cook for about 2 more minutes.

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Add the meat and cook all the way through. Add your seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Once the meat is cooked, incorporate the vegetables.

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When everything it together, add the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly.

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Grab a ramekin or baking dish. Leave it ungreased. Take 1/3 of the plantain mixture and layer it on the bottom of the dish. For my circular ramekin, I did 3 layers of plantains. If you are using a longer baking dish, it is oh k to only have two layers, as long as the meat is encased with plantains on both sides.

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Next, layer in half your meat. Add the second layer of plantains. Repeat till all meat and plantains have been used.

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The top layer should be the last layer of plantains.

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Top with the queso fresco and Parmesan cheese mixture. Bake just until the cheese begins to get bubbly (about 20 minutes).

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Remove from the oven. Take a knife and cut into slices. Everything should be eaten together, in a mixture of meat and plantain.

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