Since trying this recipe about 5-6 years ago, it has become my family's favorite stew. The savory pork coupled with the banana dumplings and spices mimic the tamale-like pasteles to a tee. A good helping of cilantro brings out the rich flavor of the dish for a home run. I have served this over steamed white rice or over gandules (pigeon peas) rice or even without rice but with fried bread and bacalao (cod) salad as sides. BUEN PROVECHO!
ACHIOTE OIL (MAKE AHEAD)
1 1/3 c
MASA (MADE THE DAY BEFORE FOR BETTER FLAVOR)
4 or 5
large green bananas
salt, to taste
pork butt or shoulder, cubed to 3/4 inch. (don't trim too much of the fat, if any)
1 1/4 large
cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp
cilantro, fresh, chopped (stems and leaves)
1 can, pitted olives, undrained
1 1/2 lb
masa, prepared the night before
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
extra freshly chopped cilantro for garnish
1PREPARE ACHIOTE OIL:
Heat olive oil and achiote seeds over medium heat for 5 minutes or just until oil has taken reddish color of seeds. Cool.
Store in tightly sealed glass jar.
Note: This recipe makes more than what is called for in stew recipe.(I refrigerate mines and kept it until the oil was used up, about 3 months later.)
Peel bananas and place in lightly salted water (halving them lengthwise and using gloves makes job easier, green bananas leave a sticky sap).
Grate on smallest opening of food processor or cheese grater.
In bowl, combine grated bananas and 1/2 cup achiote oil and mix thoroughly.
Seasoning lightly with salt.
Scoop into little balls and drop into salted boiling water until the dumpling float.
Once the dumplings float, remove from salted water and fold into the pastele stew.
Optional: Store in heavy ziploc bag in refrigerator, and use within 1-2 days, or freeze until needed.
In very large pot or dutch oven, heat 6 tablespoons of achiote oil over medium heat.
Add onions, garlic, cumin, salt, bay leaves, cilantro and pork.
Cook 10 minutes, occasionally stirring until onions have softened but not browned.
Add tomato sauce, olives and their liquid, and 4 cups water.
Lower heat to a simmer and cook 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Add masa and remaining water.
Taste and re-season if necessary.
Simmer 1 hour, stirring and checking from time to time to avoid scorching.
The stew will thicken nicely, but if it gets too thick, add a little water to thin it to your liking.
Season with freshly ground pepper.
Serve over steaming white rice and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.
Note: I've also served this with a side of fried bread and bacalao salad (I will post these recipes later.) which was just as hearty and very lovely on the palate.