Executive chef at the prestigious restaurant Yarumba, in Miami Gardens, Chef Danny Peñalo Dominguez has made quite a name for himself in South Florida. Originally from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Chef Danny creates cuisine that puts a modern spin on traditional Dominican recipes. As a highly trained chef, he is committed to passing on culinary knowledge to aspiring chefs and acting as an “ambassador of gastronomy” at various events in South Florida and the Caribbean.
“Christmas Eve is the most important of the holidays and the best meal of the year,” he recalls of his family’s celebrations. The festivities typically begin on December 23, with the family gathering and getting into holiday mode with an enormous meal prep. Though a robust meal with many components, Christmas Eve dinner wouldn’t be complete without his family’s pasteles en hoja recipe, a Dominican-style tamale made of plantains and beef.
Pasteles en Hoja Recipe
For the filing
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 green pepper, small diced
1 red onion, finely diced
2 roma tomatoes diced
Oregano to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
For the paste
1 green plantain
1/2 pound of taro
1 pound of Calabaza pumpkin (also known as West Indian pumpkin)
1/2 pound of white yam
1 teaspoon of chicken powder seasoning
1 quarter cup of evaporated milk
1 tablespoon of salt
3 banana tree leaves and/or parchment paper
For the filling, cook the beef with filling ingredients, making sure the final product is dry enough. Remove mixture from the heat and reserve. To make the paste, peel and grate the plantain, taro, pumpkin and yam. In a deep bowl, mix the plantain, taro, pumpkin, yam, milk, seasoning powder and salt.
To assemble, cut the plantain leaves into six -inch by five-inch squares. Put 3 tablespoons of the paste mixture on the center of one of these squares. Put 2 tablespoon of meat filling in the center, and cover with 3 more tablespoons of the paste mixture to cover the filling. Fold the leaf square in the shape of an envelope. Wrap again in parchment paper and tie tightly. Boil in salted water for at least 1 hour. Unwrap before serving.
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