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.
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.
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
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
One 14-ounce can cut green beans, drained (or about 2 cups of home canned)
3 large eggs, beaten
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.
Peel the plantains with a knife and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
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.
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.
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.
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