Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Paleo Pot Luck and Pastelon

Back in late October, before Thanksgiving and the craziness that can be the Christmas Season, Hubs and our fellow CrossFitter, Junior F., came up with an idea to have a Paleo Pot Luck. 

our esteemed Savage Race team from Seminole CrossFit
The plan hatched during the weekend we spent in Tampa while they participated in something muddy and scary called the Savage Race.  (No, I didn't sign up because 1) I don't like to get dirty and 2) they did some crazy stuff that involved fire and barbed wire.  I did, however, tag along.  I stayed clean and took some pictures.  And had lots of fun staying clean.)  Have I mentioned how much I love our CrossFit Family?
The rules for the Pot Luck were easy.  The food had to be Paleo and had to be homemade.  It was really pretty awesome because not one person brought grocery store cupcakes or a cheese tray.  Many of us shared our recipes and I  hope to feature them and their chefs here on the blog  because we really made some outstanding dishes. And I hope that we will have many more Paleo Pot Lucks in the future.  It was a huge success and so much fun.

First up is Jose's (aka HispanikPanic) version of Pastelon which is a Puerto Rican sort of lasagna made with sweet plantains instead of pasta.  I made this on Sunday...it took a while but it was well worth the time.  Yep, that's him in the picture on the right.  It's hard to miss him in a crowd, especially when he's wearing his mask and cape.  It is very appropriate since he is a super hero at the gym and is always super helpful to me when I'm confuddled about a lift or lose count during a WOD.  He even made me an honorary Hispanic one night; dubbed with a PVC pipe that we use for warming up.  What a guy!  Here we go....


Some notes on my first experience with this dish...

You can certainly use any regular meat sauce recipe that you like...this one is great and was super easy though.
Jose's recipe called for 1 cup each of chopped red bell pepper and chopped green bell pepper sauteed with the onion.  Hubs and I are trying to avoid most night shades, so I roasted some carrots as a substitute.  I know tomatoes are night shades too, but I can't think of a substitute for tomato paste.
I researched a few versions of the classic version of Pastelon (which has cheese; promise you will not miss it!) but could not find another one that uses eggs as the bottom layer.  I may leave it out the next time and see how it does.

6 ripe plantains
8 eggs
1 sweet onion, chopped
6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds grass-fed ground beef
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry wine (red or white)
4-6 tablespoons coconut oil (maybe more)
salt/pepper to taste

Cookware needed:   saute pan for sauce
                                     larger skillet for cooking plantains
                                     glass casserole dish for baking Pastelon
                                     roasting dish, if you roast the carrots

Your oven will need to be heated to 350 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in your saute pan and add the onions.  I like to cook them on low for around half an hour so that they become golden and caramelized.  In the meantime, you can roast the carrots at 400 degrees with a little coconut oil for about the same amount of time.  (You will need to stir the carrots and onions every ten minutes or so.  Don't worry too much about them, but don't go out for a run either...)  Roasting and caramelizing just adds a depth of sweetness and flavor that is great.  You can just saute them both until they are all soft; it's a little quicker.
While the onions and carrots are cooking, peel your plantains.  You will need to slice them lengthwise into long strips, about a half inch thick which is usually 4 slices per plantain.  Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in your skillet to about medium low temperature.  Add the plantain strips and cook for 3-4 minutes per side; they will need to be lightly browned and soft.   Drain them on paper toweling and sprinkle with a little salt while they are still hot.   You will most likely need to cook the plantains in several bathes and add more oil as you go.  (Go ahead and sneak a taste of one...so good!)
Beat four of the eggs with a little salt and pepper.  Grease the bottom of your glass casserole dish with some coconut oil and pour in the eggs.  Bake in your oven for 6-7 minutes until they are set, but not done.  Put the dish aside and finish the meat sauce.
Stir  the carrots  into the onion if you didn't cook them together; add the minced garlic.  When you smell the garlic, it's ready.  Add the ground beef and cook it with the veggies, until it has lost its red, raw color. Stir in the tomato paste, then add the chicken stock and wine.  Let this simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste your sauce when it's done and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Place a layer of cooked plantain slices on top of the partially cooked egg in your casserole dish.  Spoon all of the meat sauce over the plantains.  Layer the rest of the plantains over the meat sauce.  Beat the remaining four eggs with a little more salt and pepper and pour over the casserole.  Let the eggs soak in for a few minutes and then bake your Pastelon in the oven for 40-45 minutes.  Let it rest for five minutes before serving.  Enjoy 'cos this is yummy...
I am sure that you will want to give Jose a big THANK YOU for this recipe when you see him!  (He's always easy to recognize in that mask and cape.)

Take good care, k.

PS Our friend from the gym, Noha, came over for dinner when we had our Pastelon the other night.  She is a fabulous cook, originally from Egypt.  She is teaching me all kinds of Arabic recipes and I am teaching her how to shop.  (grin)  Hopefully, she'll let me share her recipe for tahini sauce in a future post.  In the meantime, she really loved the roasted asparagus that we served with dinner and asked how to make it...here goes, nothing to it:

1 bunch of asparagus spears
2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil
salt to taste

I love my little convection oven and use it every day, but you can sure roast in a big one as well.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  I usually use a stoneware baking dish, but any ceramic dish or even a shallow pan will do.  Rinse your asparagus and snap off and discard the hard ends.  Place the spears in the dish with a couple of spoons of coconut oil on top.  Place it in the oven and stir to coat the asparagus after about five minutes, when the oil has melted.  Toss them again in about 10 minutes, then let them cook for another 10 or so minutes after that.  Don't get too far away,  because these guys will burn.  When they are done to your preferred amount of crunchiness, take them out and away from the heat.  (I did say that they will burn, right?  And that would be a shame.)  Sprinkle the roasted asparagus with a little salt while it is still hot.  Easy as anything.
Noha and me cooking in the towncasa kitchen