Monthly Archives: November 2009

Alexia’s Pastelón
11.29.09

IMG_3548This is the moment you’ve been waiting for.

Throughout the past 5 days, I’ve gotten many requests for this recipe. Although we are now in the December holiday territory, I urge you to make this sweet potato casserole, or pastelón in Dominican. I got the recipe from my cousin Alexia whom I love with all my heart.(gracias alexia!) Now, it is in your hands my friends. All I can say is that once you make this, prepare to be loved, your holidays will never be quite the same again.

Alexia’s Thanksgiving Pastelón

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla*
½ can of evaporated milk
Ground cinnamon*
Pancake syrup*

Peal the sweet potatoes, cut in quarters and boil in salted water for approx 30 minutes or until soft. Drain and mash slowly with a fork. Add the butter, sugar, evaporated milk, vanilla, cinnamon, maple syrup and the egg yolks.
Beat the egg whites and fold in the mixture. Place in baking dish.
Cover with the topping below.

Topping:
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons butter (hard)
½ cup chopped walnuts
Ground cinnamon

Bake at 350F for approx. 30 minutes.

* Means: “al ojo” or approximate measurements

Marshmallow woman

When you think of Thanksgiving, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For me it’s a can of jellied cranberry, which I thought was the best cranberry sauce in the world. It is when I moved to the northeastern U.S. that I suddenly started thinking twice about it, and eventually got more snobby with my cranberry sauce, choosing more natural interpretations that could be traced back to the actual fruit. What I finally realized was that what I had been serving with turkey all those years, was a far cry from the deep burgundy sauce prepared in kitchens all over the country with sugar, water, spices and of course cranberries.

In the Dominican Republic, unless you’re somehow linked to the U.S.(have family here, have studied here, have an American spouse, etc), Thanksgiving is not a popular holiday. In my home though, the celebration was welcome every year. Mom instituted the tradition after celebrating it herself with her own family. Although the stories were always nebulous, I gathered that her father, my grandfather, had lived in Puerto Rico and had himself adopted the tradition.

Decades later, my kitchen in Santo Domingo buzzed whenever Turkey day would come along. My aunt Tiita took over one of the counters, mixing her secret “Russian” potato salad adding a little of this and a little of that until it was just perfect. Mom pulled out the glistening golden turkey for one last baste. Plantain pasteles filled with shredded chicken boiled in a huge pot. Piping hot rice with kidney beans (moro) was scooped into a huge bowl, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows toasted in the oven.

The table was set. The feast was underway. I had the task of slicing the cranberry “sauce”. I loved the feel of my knife going through the shiny jelly shaped like its can. I loved how each ring was equal to the next and I took pride in lining them up, each one resting on the next. Then families and friends who had gathered on the terrace enjoying the (hopefully) cooler breezes of November and laughing and drinking would gather round the table. My Mom would give thanks, her spirit as bright as her blond bob. We would dig into the spread of American and Dominican dishes, and forget that these moments existed only for that day.

In our minds, they would always come again, they would last forever.

Latin Thanksgiving Dessert
11.22.09

If you’re looking to serve something special this Thanksgiving, try your hand at the “Cuatro Leches” dessert. It’s a lovely interpretation of the classic “Tres Leches” treat renowned throughout South America. In this version, the fourth milk comes from “dulce de leche”, a milk caramel spread popular in Argentina (I buy mine at Eli’s Vinegar Factory, but think you can also find it at Zabar’s or other gourmet food shops). I’ve made this recipe over and over again and always get rave reviews. I plan to make it in a few days for the holiday. Try it out too!

Pastel de Cuatro Leches

2 tsp. butter
1 tbsp. plus 2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
6 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 1⁄4 cups sugar
1 1⁄2 cup whole milk
1 1⁄2 tbsp. dark rum
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1 16-oz. jar dulce de leche (milk caramel)

1. Heat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ × 13″ baking pan with the butter and dust with 1 tbsp. of the flour. Invert the dish, tap out the excess flour, and set aside.

2. Sift the remaining flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside. Put the egg whites into a large bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. While the mixer is still running, add the sugar in a gradual stream and continue beating again to soft peaks. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add the reserved flour mixture and 1/2 cup of whole milk in 3 parts, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the rum and vanilla and beat again briefly until smooth.

3. Pour batter into reserved baking pan and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Set the cake aside and let cool slightly for 30 minutes.

4. Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and remaining milk in a bowl. Using a knife, poke the cake with holes all over, penetrating to the bottom of the pan. Pour the milk mixture over the warm cake and set aside to let cool completely.

5. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled and liquid is absorbed, at least 4 hours. Spread the dulce de leche across the top of the cake and serve.

This article has been adapted from Saveur magazine’s Issue #108, find the original recipe here

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