Pastelillos are the first Puerto Rican meal I ever cooked, and from then on I was totally hooked on the cuisine. They are a type of fried empanada with a wide crispy edge and are dangerously hard to stop eating once you have had a taste. They are a typical roadside food in Puerto Rico that serves as an easy option for a portable lunch.
- Yield: 8 Pastelillos
- ½ cup (85 g) Carne Molida or meat filling of choice
- 1½ cups (180 g) sifted cassava flour
- ¼ cup (32 g) tapioca starch
- 1 tsp (6 g) fine Himalayan salt
- ¼ cup (56 g) palm shortening or lard
- 2 tbsp (30 g) canned pure pumpkin puree, or 1 large egg, beaten
- ¾ cup (175 ml) coconut milk
- ¼ cup (60 ml) avocado oil for frying, using extra as needed
- Prepare and chill the carne molida or other meat filling of choice in advance so that it is chilled when you are assembling the pastelillos.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the cassava flour, tapioca starch and salt and use a fork to cut the shortening into the flour. If using pumpkin instead of egg, cut it into the flour with the fat. Stir in the coconut milk (and egg, if using) until a dough forms. Use your hands to work the dough into a ball, then divide it into 8 portions.
- Take each portion and roll it into a ball between your hands. Place it between 2 pieces of parchment paper. Place a plate on top of the ball and use even pressure to press down to flatten the ball into a disk, then use a rolling pin to flatten it to 5 to 6 inches (12.5 to 15 cm) across. Fill with about 1 tablespoon (15 g) of the meat filling. Use the parchment paper to assist in folding the dough over to seal. Line up the edges and then press them closed, using the tines of a fork for a crimped look. The edge should be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide.
- In a small or medium skillet, heat the oil for 4 to 5 minutes, then carefully add the pastelillos, working in batches if necessary. Fry them for 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until crispy and golden all over. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate. Serve immediately.