Christmas Tradition: Puerto Rican Pasteles

Food and drink are an essential part of the Puerto Rican holiday season. In addition to arroz con gandules (rice made with pigeon peas and pork), coquito (an eggnog-like alcoholic beverage) and  arroz con dulce (sweet rice pudding), pasteles are always found on a Puerto Rican table at Christmas.

Puerto Ricans take so much pride in their pasteles and each family has their own special way of making them. They are labor intensive, which is why the dish is usually saved for special occasions like the holidays. The more family around, the more hands there are to help out. Families will often make a lot at a time and freeze the rest for later. There is nothing more exciting to me than the idea of a family gathering, making a recipe passed down through the generations. You know it's going to be delicious.

The dough, or "masa" is traditionally made with a combination of starchy vegetables that could include green plantains, green bananas, yams, taro and West Indian pumpkin. The dough is flattened over a banana leaf and stuffed with a meat stew. Depending on preferences, this stew can have any combination of pork butt, bacon, chickpeas, potatoes and raisins,  and it will be seasoned with a mix of herbs and spices and recaito, a Puerto Rican spin on a sofrito. How insanely good does that sound?

I love pasteles! They are great for a snack or a meal on the go. If you can’t find a local Puerto Rican restaurant that make them around you, don’t fret. You can buy them frozen online.

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Where to Grab Pasteles in NYC:

Eden Grinshpan graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in London with the “Grande Diplome” in both Pastry and Cuisine. After graduating she went to India to volunteer with different organizations, one of them being an orphanage called Ramanas Garden. Here she came up with the idea of raising money for the orphanage by re-opening a café, which had not been in operation for some time, and teaching the children the basics of culinary cuisine. After returning to New York City, Eden enrolled in a management program at The Institute of Culinary Education before working at the bakery, Babycakes. Eden is the co-owner of EthNicitY Productions, and hosts Eden Eats, a traveling show to find global cuisine in cities across the US. Check out Eden’s blog, Eden Eats, and follow Eden on Facebook and @EdenEats on Twitter.

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Make Puerto Rican pasteles, or tamales, for the holidays with this recipe from Cooking Channel.

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Puerto Ricans took the usual eggnog recipe and infused it with coconut to make coquitos, bringing a touch of the islands to the holidays.

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