Yuca Shepherds’ Pie (Pastelón de Yuca)

This dish is consumed on Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico (Dominicans eat it too, but year-round). It’s a Creolized (Puerto Rican-ized) version of shepherds’ pie, which is a common dish at American Thanksgiving dinners. I made it for my Caribbean Society & Culture class, and it was very well received by my peers, both those of Caribbean ancestry and otherwise.

Yuca Shepherds’ Pie (Pastelón de Yuca)

Yuca 2 lbs, peeled, cored, and boiled

Asiago, mozzarella, parmigiano (parmesan), pecorino, or provolone cheese (For a baking dish that is 8 inches high and 8 inches long, you want 1/2 cup or 4 oz. Traditionally mozzarella is used.)

Milk 1/2 cup

Butter 3 tbsp plus more for greasing

Spanish sweet onion 1 large, peeled

Garlic 3 cloves, peeled

Any vegetables that hold up well when baked 1 lb. OR ground meat 1 lb. (Ground beef is most common, but if you’re making this for Thanksgiving, you may want to use ground turkey.)

Corn 1 cup or 8 oz.

1. Puree milk, butter, onion, and garlic in a blender.

2. If using meat, set stove to medium and cook until browned. Season it, if desired. Drain the grease.

3. Grease baking dish and preheat oven to 350°F.

4. With a potato masher, mash the yuca with the milk mix. Yuca is somewhat tough, so it took me longer to mash than potatoes.

5. Place the meat or vegetables in the baking dish. Place the corn on top of that layer. Place the mashed yuca on top of the corn. Sprinkle cheese on top of the yuca.

6. Bake until the cheese starts to brown, about 30 minutes.

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Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Doughnuts (Picarones)

(Un)Happy Day of the Dead!! This recipe is part of the Food of the Month Club, whose ingredient this month is pumpkin. Pumpkin is my absolute favorite vegetable (probably because technically it’s a fruit), so check out the round-up on November 15!

Pumpkin-Sweet Potato Doughnuts (Picarones)

Pumpkin 1/2 lb

Sweet potato (common sweet potato aka Ipomoea batatas) 1/2 lb

Cinnamon Syrup/Miel de Chancaca (Click for my recipe.)

Canola oil for frying

Flour 3 cups plus more for kneading

Active dry yeast 3 tbsp

Milk 1/4 cup

Egg 1

Brown sugar 4 1/2 cups (more or less, as desired)

Butter 4 tbsp for glaze

Anise extract 1/2 tsp

1. In a bowl, mix the yeast into the milk until all the yeast is wet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes so that the yeast sets. You want to refrigerate it because it contains milk.

2. Wash the pumpkin, slice it, and boil it in water on medium heat, until it is soft enough to peel off the rind. You don’t need the fibrous strands and the seeds for this recipe, but I recommend that you set them aside for a different recipe.

3. Wash the sweet potato. Microwave it for 2 minutes and check its softness. Keep microwaving it for 2 minute periods until the inside is as soft as mashed potatoes (it took me 8 minutes). When it is soft enough, scoop the insides out of the skin.

4. When the yeast is done setting, and the pumpkin and sweet potato are ready, mix in the pumpkin, sweet potato, and anise extract. Slowly mix in the flour. Slowly add the sugar, adjusting it as desired. Then slowly mix in the egg.

5. Once mixed, lay the dough on a floured wax paper surface. Put gloves on and knead until every inch of the dough is dry instead of sticky. The first time I made these, I focused on the outside of the dough, and realized that, once the dough expanded, the sticky insides got all over the towel I covered the dough with.

6. When the dough is no longer sticky, leave it on the wax paper and cover with a dampened towel. Make sure the towel is large enough to cover twice the size of the dough. Do not refrigerate the dough. Let sit for 3 hours. You can let it sit longer, but know that it will continue to expand.

7. Shape doughnuts into doughnut-shape, wetting the dough slightly if it is too dry to be pliable.

8. Melt the butter in a microwave. With a pastry brush (I recommend silicone.), spread the melted butter over the doughnuts so that they don’t come apart.

9. Heat the oil in a pan. When heated, add doughnuts. Don’t crowd them or else the oil temperature will go down and the doughnuts will get too greasy. Fry them one at a time if you need to. Fry doughnuts until golden. The insides should be soft, like fresh-baked bread. Squeeze out the excess oil with paper towels.

10. Drizzle cinnamon syrup/miel de chancaca on top.

Cinnamon Syrup (Miel de Chancaca)

Happy Orisha Day!! Stay tuned for another post tomorrow for Day of the Dead!

Cinnamon Syrup (Miel de Chancaca)

Traditionally, this syrup is used for drizzling on top of picarones (click for my picarones recipe)Miel means “honey,” but there is neither honey nor other nectars in the syrup. Chancaca is the Peruvian word for unrefined cane sugar (aka piloncillo). I tried using brown sugar and molasses (the standard substitute for unrefined cane sugar), but that gave the syrup a strawberry-flavored cough syrup taste. However, it tasted good once I used ordinary brown sugar. I don’t recommend trying dark brown sugar, because that’s another form of unrefined cane sugar (piloncillo/chancaca comes in a conical shape that you slice pieces off of).

Brown sugar (not dark brown sugar) 1 1/4 cup

Red wine 1 cup

Orange juice 1 tsp

Lemon juice 1 tsp

Ground allspice 1/4 tsp

Ground cloves 1/4 tsp

Ground cinnamon 1 tsp

  1. Heat all ingredients on medium-low until warm, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. This syrup can be as thick as honey, because not all versions use alcohol, so if you want this recipe to come out thick, add cornstarch.
  2. Serve warm.

Tomato Sauce with Annatto (Salsa para Chicharrones)

Chicharrones are dramatically different dishes in different countries. Puerto Ricans refer to three separate dishes by that name! In El Salvador, it refers to stewed meat. Add meat or tofu if you’d like, but the sauce is great in and of itself.

Tomato Sauce with Annatto (Salsa para Chicharrones)

Plain (unseasoned) tomato sauce 16 oz.

Yellow onion 1, peeled

Garlic 12 cloves, peeled

Red bell pepper 1, washed, stemmed, and seeded

Ground annatto seeds 1 tbsp

Ground cumin 1/4 tsp

Red wine vinegar 1 tbsp

1. In a blender, blend all ingredients.

2. Cook sauce for 10 minutes on medium heat, and serve warm.