Youth Opportunities Development (Y.O.D.) recently invited Cafe Con Leche to Clairton to give a Puerto Rican food cooking class.  Y.O.D. is a youth program that focuses on innovative, consistent and comprehensive approach to supporting the development of youth in Clairton.  Clairton sits along the Monongahela River and is home to the largest coke manufacturing facility in the United States. Cafe Con Leche has never done an event in Clairton and we were excited to bring our services to a new place.

Our cooking lesson focused on the plantain. We chose to focus on the plantain because of it's versatility in recipes and significance to traditional Latin American and African cooking.  Prior to the cooking class most of the youth involved had never tried a plantain before. Cafe Con Leche worked with the young chefs to make plantains three ways: Tostones, Amarillos/Maduros and Pastelon.

Tostones are twice fried green plantain chips. Sort of like a potato chip, but better because they are plantains. Tostones can be eaten plain with just a little salt or pair with your favorite dip. I personally love them with some smashed avocado and lime, but you can also make a garlic mojo sauce like they do in Cuba or dip it in mayo-ketchup like they do in Puerto Rico. To see a video of Cafe Con Leche's Tostones recipe you can click here. 

Amarillos (also known as Maduros) are fried or baked yellow plantains. So sweet you could pair them with some ice cream and eat for dessert. I love to pair amarillos with savory food to get a sweet and savory flavor combination. Which is why I love pastelon. 

Pastelon is a Puerto Rican lasagna, made from layers of sweet amarillos, seasoned ground beef called picadillo and spicy pepper jack cheese on top. 

There were no leftovers - the young chefs ate it all up! Even the pickiest of eaters found that they enjoyed the plantain. The boys made the picadillo and put a lot of care into seasoning the ground beef. There was a particular love for the tostones and they were surprised at how sweet amarillos could be. Cafe Con Leche really enjoyed cooking with all the young chefs and we look forward to returning to Clairton to lead a class - maybe this time we'll make dessert! You can see photos and recipe from our class below. Happy plantain cooking! 

If you are interested in bringing Cafe Con Leche cooking classes to your school or youth program, please email or check out the services page of our website for more information.  

Click on photos to advance gallery

Pastelon Recipe 

Ingredients - One large pan serves 8-10 people

  • 7-10 Yellow Plantains (You can also purchase Goya frozen amarillos, found at Las Palmas or Reyna's. One box is about the same amount.)
  • 1 1/2-2 lbs ground beef (To make the recipe vegetarian you can replace the beef with beans or tofu. Cook to your liking and add to the recipe as you would add the beef)
  • 1 Jar of Capers
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 1 Red & Green Pepper
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro
  • Small can of tomato sauce
  • Spices: Cumin, Oregano, Salt, Achiote (or Annatto)
  • 1 Package of Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Vegetable or Olive Oil
  • Two eggs
  • Four tablespoons of Water
  • Aluminum Foil & one large baking dish

Picadillo (seasoned ground beef)

  1. Make Sofrito: In a food processor mix up half an onion, half the cilantro bunch, a clove of garlic and both the green and red peppers.
  2. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the sofrito and began to sauté.
  3. As the sofrito is starting to cook, dice up the rest of the onion and add to the pan. Sprinkle salt to your tasting and cook until onion pieces are soft and clear.
  4. Chop up two cloves of garlic and add to pan, sauté a few more minutes and then add cumin, achiote, oregano, salt to taste and capers. 
  5. As the ingredients in the pan begin to cook together add the tomato sauce and ground beef. Sprinkle more cumin, oregano and salt to your taste. Mix it all together. 

Preparing the Yellow Plantains

  1. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.
  2. As the beef cooks on a medium-low heat, begin to cut and peel the plantain. Cutting a yellow plantain is not much different from cutting a green plantain. You can watch Cafe Con Leche's video to learn how to cut and peel them.  
  3. Once the plantains have been cut in 1 inch slices, line the bottom of the pan. Put pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes (until the plantains are slightly browning).
  4. As the plantains are in the oven and the ground beef is cooking, grate the pepper jack cheese.

Assemble the Dish

  1. Scramble the eggs and add water to mix.
  2. Take the plantains our of the oven (keep the oven on at 350 degrees.
  3. Pour the picadillo evenly over plantains. 
  4. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the beef.
  5. Pour the egg and water mixture evenly over the cheese.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and put it oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove aluminum foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.
  8. Once the cheese on top begins to brown, remove baking dish from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes, cut up and serve!

Buen Provecho!