When was the last time you completed a task you were looking forward to only to find out it was a dud, then you miraculously managed to save the day? Have you ever taken a shot of something you loved only to realize you were out of focus? Then as you look at the digital image you find something in that same shot that is completely interesting? Or, have you gotten directions to a new restaurant and once there realize there’s a 2-hour wait, so you just walk down the block to a little hole-in-the-wall which has now become your fave place?
Well, I did something of the sort. Actually, I’ve done all of the above, but most recently I hit a total dud on a dish that I had been thinking about for DAYS, weeks even. Then somehow I was able to repurpose it the next day and wound up with a great save. There’s no real original recipe here, just some slight modifications to a standard.
For weeks, I had been thinking about carnitas: tender fatty pork pieces cooked in their own fat. I have made these successfully before but wanted to document it AND wanted to try out this new Le Creuset-like dutch oven I just won on Ebay. Well, between random pieces of pork, defects on the enamel of my new used pot and a battle with allergy-induced bronchitis, my carnitas were disappointing. Nothing especially wrong with them; taste was ok (though I won’t try that combination of spices again), the texture was a different story.
Some of it got stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven, it kinda crumbled and broke into weird little strands, and I wasn’t able to get the golden brown color I love. But I wasn’t about to dunk all that meat when there wasn’t anything ‘really’ wrong with it.
What is a disappointed girl to do? I asked myself. Off to work I went, the carnitas fiasco heavily looming over me. When I was back, I remembered I had plantains that had ripened too much to use as tajadas, that’s when the foodie lightbulb hit me between coughing attacks! Have you ever heard of pastelon? It is a Latin dish which varies slightly from country to country, but its basically a shepherd’s pie prepared with easily accessible produce. Most commonly, you will find it prepared with ripe plantains instead of potatoes and ground beef rather than lamb as is customary in England.
Sorry, I just realized how long this tale got. Bottom line is this. If you have some leftover meat of any kind you can use it for this; dont be shy. It could be chicken, turkey, beef, anything you have hanging around your fridge will work. Here’s what I did:
For the topping:
3 very ripe plantains
1/4 tsp salt
2 slices bacon, diced
Trim the ends of the plantains and peel. Once peeled, cut them into thirds, then slice each third lenghtwise and cut to 1/4-inch cubes. Put the cubed plantains in a medium saucepan, add the salt and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium (to a slow simmer). Cook them for 4 minutes then drain and set aside.
In that same saucepan, cook the bacon until lightly brown; remove from the heat. Add the drained plantains to the bacon. You want to stir it in, incorporating the bacon bits and fat. The plantains will be mashed. Set aside.
Ingredients for the meat filling:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cp ea Italian parsley and cilantro, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (1 tsp garlic puree)
1/4 cp white wine (vermouth)
3 cps leftover meat, diced or shreded
2 tbsp ketchup
Habanero sauce, to taste (optional)
1/2 cp water
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium high heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, cilantro and parsley stir to combine. Add the wine and flame it (optional) to cook the alcohol out, it will reduce a bit. Add the habanero, ketchup and water; mix well. Finally add the meat you will use. Stir it well and cover. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375°. Rub a bit of oil around the sides of a baking dish; I used a 9-inch pie pyrex for this recipe. Put all of the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan, then top with the plantain mash. Place in the middle rack of your oven and bake for 20 minutes. At the end of that time, turn on the broiler and allow it to brown a bit on top. Pull it out of the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Done! Hope you like it as much as we did.