Venison and Plantain Piñón Casserole

Savory ground venison and strips of sweet fried plantain combine for a version of this classic Puerto Rican comfort food

By author of Timber 2 Table Wild Game Recipes Print Recipe
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Like most Puerto Rican comfort foods, piñón or pastelón casserole is a blend of sweet and savory flavors. It features ground meat and fried plantain slices layered in a lasagna-style dish. Just like traditional lasagna, the dish features melty, gooey cheese throughout.

The dish features layers of fried plantain, vegetables, and meaty sauce, all held together by lots of melted cheese.

We substitute ground venison for the usual beef in our version. We add vegetables like green beans along with the traditional olives and raisins to continue the sweet and savory theme. Like most comfort foods, you’ll rarely find two piñón casseroles made alike. Feel free to mix and match the ingredients to your family’s tastes. Don’t like olives? Leave them out. Same goes for the green beans. You can also substitute mixed vegetables for the beans if you prefer.

Give the vegetables a rough chop before processing.


4 garlic cloves

2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

1 Cubanelle pepper, seeded and chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small bunch cilantro

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives

1 cup vegetable oil

6 ripe (yellow) plantains, sliced lengthwise into thin strips

1 lb. ground venison

1 tablespoon adobo seasoning

1 tablespoon capers

1/2 cup golden raisins

Kosher salt

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

One 14-ounce can cut green beans, drained (or about 2 cups of home canned)

3 large eggs, beaten


Cooking Instructions

Like many Puerto Rican recipes, this one starts with a sofrito. Add the garlic, peppers, onion, cilantro, tomato sauce, and olives to a food processor. Process until everything is finely chopped and blended, but not quite smooth. Set the sofrito aside.

Blend the sofrito ingredients in the food processor.

Peel the plantains with a knife and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Peel the plantains and slice into thin strips.

Heat a cup of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the plantain slices in batches, one layer at a time, for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until they start to take on a golden-brown color. Move each batch to a paper-lined platter until all plantains have been fried.

Fry the plantain strips before adding them to the dish.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the skillet. Add the ground venison to the skillet. Brown the venison, crumbling it as it cooks. Add the sofrito and adobo seasoning and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and allow it to cool slightly. If using capers and raisins, add them to the venison mixture. Season to taste with kosher salt.

To build the piñón, start by lightly coating a 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Layer the bottom with fried plantain slices, sprinkle on a third of the meat mixture, a third of the cheese, and a third of the green beans.

The dish often contains green beans, so we used home-canned from this year’s garden.

Repeat the process, ending with a top layer of plantains and cheese. Pour over the beaten egg. Cover with foil and bake the piñón at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking another 5 to 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

Bake the casserole to allow the flavors to blend and the cheese to melt.



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