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Back in the Kitchen with Plantains Stuffed with Picadillo

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In the kitchen

I was reading a very nice recipe book about the food from one of my favorite states in Mexico, Veracruz. The food is particularly rich and it's hard not to be in a good mood while you are there.

The recipe called for a somewhat traditional picadillo recipe but I decided to replace the raisins with sweet, dried xoconostle and the walnuts with almonds, mostly because these were the things I had on hand.

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After sauteing chopped onion in some chicken fat, I added ground pork and a few chopped tomatoes and cooked it until just done. Then I added sweet, dried xoconostle, mortar-crushed roasted almonds, chopped olives, Oregano Indio and one finely chopped serrano chile.

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As they cooked, I made a few pieces out of very ripe plantains and slowly roasted them on my comal. You can use a cast iron skillet but if you have a clay comal dedicated to roasting vegetables, this is worth the bother. Alternately, you can boil the plantains in water, it's just not quite as exciting and you won't have the same heavenly smells in your kitchen.

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Once the bananas are soft, allow them to cool and then peel them. Mash them with some flour until you have a sticky dough. Without the flour, it's insanely sticky. This makes it workable.

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I made small balls and used my tortilla press to mash them into circles. You want to barely push down so that the "dough" is still very thick or the filling will later come right through instead of being contained in the empanada. Then I spooned some of the finished picadillo mixture on to one side of the "tortilla".

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Using the plastic to help quide the dough, I made a half-moon shape and then gently closed the edges. It won't be perfect but it should look something like what we all know as empanadas.

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Now into a cast iron skillet with coconut oil, I gently placed the sticky mass into the hot grease for about 3 minutes a side.

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The empanada needs to get very dark. You may even think it's burning, but it's not. You want to cook them until there's a thin but distinct crunch on the outside while retaining all the creamy richness inside. For me, it took two sacrificed empanadas before I really got it down. Let them rest on a paper bag to absorb excess fat while you continue.

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This was one of the best things I've made all year. So delicious and exotic and I hope true to its Veracruz roots. I will make them again!

(As of this writing, we are out of the sweet xoconostle treats but expect them on our next shipment from Mexico.)



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