I have to admit that one of the best things about being Cuban is our cuisine. Recently, a renowned chef and instructor based in Las Vegas sent me a message on Facebook to get my thoughts on food accessibility on my native island.
I sighed and told him that the best place to get the real deal and authentic Cuban food is actually here in the States—not at a restaurant; but rather in a first generation Cuban home. That may sound biased, but from my experience, homemade food always comes with a high dose of true skill, love, nostalgic memories and coveted secret ingredients.
One of the most popular treats we make as part of our sweet repertoire are pastelitos! These sweet and savory puff pastry delights are daily bites if you live in cities like Miami, NYC or even Jersey City.
The good news is that you don’t have to be in one of those Latin central cities to grab a box full of them! If you have an hour and a bit of patience, you can make them yourself. If you don’t eat red meat or you're trying to watch that waistline, try this turkey version I made using the recipe below. Let’s not be confused: All those traditional Cuban flavors are still in there: the garlic, oregano, cumin, onion, and to top it off, a dust of azúcar!
* A good tip for those of you not so daring: Buy already made puff pastry shells or sheets at your local grocery store. Otherwise you may loose your appetite trying to make the pastry dough from scratch. I used shells for the first time in this recipe and they worked like a charm. No fuss baking!
Cuban Pastelitos de Carne
2- 6 pack of pastry puff shells
Ingredients for turkey filling:
- 1 lb ground turkey chuck
- 8 oz. tomato sauce
- 4 tbsp. Spanish olives, minced
- 2 heaping tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt
In large non-stick sauce pan, add turkey meat and break up using fork. Add tomato sauce and cook for 5-10 until meat is browned. Add all other ingredients and stir. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until all flavors have infused well.
For egg wash
- 1 egg
- 1 oz. water
Combine and whisk egg and water.
For simple syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
Bring water and sugar to a boil and until sugar is fully dissolved into water.
Method for Pasteles
Preheat oven to 400f. Place pastry shells on non-stick baking sheet. Brush each shell top with egg wash using a pastry brush. Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry shells have fully risen and have nice golden color. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minute. Using butter knife, remove top of shell and stuff with 2 tbsp. of turkey picadillo. Cover back up with shell top. Repeat this until all pastries are filled. Using a different pastry brush, cover all pastries with simple syrup. Bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool a bit before eating.
Yields 12 pasteles
For additional cooking advice from Bren Herrera, visit Flanboyanteats.com