Nearly every culture in the world has its own Christmas traditions (provided, of course, the population is remotely Christian). Food, of course, takes center stage right along side the baby Jesus and all those cute farm animals in the manger. I recently learned about the Italian "Feast of the Seven Fishes" for instance, a seafood extravaganza prepared every Christmas Eve.
In Puerto Rico, Christmas means pasteles: delicious packets of savory goodness that resemble large tamales, cooked in banana leaves, usually with a pork center and a plantain or taro masa. Dale Cooper, Karl Marxxx and I planned to make a batch this Christmas Eve but ran out of time. The preparation process alone can take the better half of a day for a large batch. With four packets of rotting leaves in my fridge and a steely commitment to togetherness, Dale Cooper and I decided to improvise on his family's traditional recipe and attempt our own batch last night. We stayed up well past three in the morning wrapping pasteles in foil. While I shouldn't mention this publicly, I think our pasteles may give abuelita's a run for her money. If you have a day to kill and access to a well stocked bodega, I highly recommend a stab at this Puerto Rican holiday treat.
Add an olive and a blanched almond in the center.
Wrap the banana leaf.
Wrap the pastele in foil to prevent leakage.
Boil for an hour and then remove from foil:
Dale, unwrapping his pastele from the banana leaf.
It may not look appetizing, but trust me it's DELICIOUS!
Imagine your own double entendre. Unwrapping my pastele from its banana leaf.