Pastelitos de Carne


In a city where bagels and rugelach are ubiquitous, I find myself craving real Cuban goodness- pastelitos de carne. Pastelitos are great at any time of day, kind of like ice cream, but they’re usually enjoyed for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or at any family party. I dream of days when I could walk into a bakery and stand before an array of golden pastelitos- de carne, de queso, de guayaba, guayaba con queso. The warm scent of homemade pastelitos de carne baking transports me to ‘la ventana’ or cafeteria windows, but I’m sipping my cortaditos at home in NYC instead of at Versailles nowadays.


Pastelitos de carne are crazy easy to make- that is if you don’t have to stop every two seconds to take a picture! I made my mom’s classic Cuban picadillo for the pastelitos de carne, and I had enough picadillo left over for dinner that night. Making pastelitos de carne (or just pastelitos in general) is especially easier if you purchase pre-made puff pastry. While the idea of making puff pastry from scratch is warm and fuzzy and makes me feel legit, it’s just not realistic in my tiny NYC kitchen. These kitchens are small-I think the technical term is itty bitty. Kitchen size aside, these pastelitos de carne were worth every bit of effort, and I can’t wait to make pastelitos de queso soon.


Pastelitos de Carne

  • Cuban Picadillo (I used around a cup and a half or so)
  • Puff Pastry
  • Flour for dusting
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

Prepare the picadillo according to the recipe link here. I let my picadillo get to room temperature before making the pastelitos because the hot meat can melt the cold puff pastry too quickly before it gets into the oven. While the picadillo is cooling you can begin to make your puff pastry from scratch if you are choosing to do so.  I have used this recipe and this recipe too and I liked them both. I chose to buy pre-made puff pastry this time from Trader Joe’s so I wait until the picadillo is slightly warm before starting. Puff pastry is in the freezer section and you will need to let it defrost overnight in your refrigerator.


Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet tray with wax paper or on other non-stick material to have ready for later. Lightly beat the egg with one tsp water and set aside. Dust a clean surface with flour before rolling out the puff pastry a bit. It is already quite thin, but I rolled it out a bit more. Using a round cookie cutter cut out as many pastry circles as you can. Re-roll and cut more until you are out of dough. I kept on adding pinches of flour to prevent the pastry dough from sticking. Dust off excess flour and begin to prep for the pastetlitos. My recipe made around 15 pastelitos de carne so 7-8 rounds per sheet of puff pastry, but maybe this is because I am not an expert dough roller? Who knows?- my argument is quality not quantity.


Place the pastry dough rounds down and brush with the egg wash. Add a spoonful of picadillo and press the pastry dough round on top making sure to firmly press the edges and create a seal. Repeat for all of the dough rounds until you run out. Place the pastelitos de carne on the lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I baked mine for only 20 minutes and they were a perfect golden brown. While the pastelitos are baking put the sugar and water in a cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove it and stir the simple syrup and microwave for 30 more seconds. Allow it to cool and you will have a small batch of simple syrup for brushing the pastries. This step is optional, but it adds a wonderful sweetness to the picadillo stuffed pastelitos de carne. Brush the pastelitos with the simple syrup the second they come out of the oven. I suggest waiting a little bit before digging in as these pastelitos de carne will be piping hot! Buen provecho!

Tamal en Cazuela


Tamal en cazuela reminds me of my abuelo. He would enjoy this delicious Cuban stew with a croqueta preparada for dinner. Tamal en cazuela is sold especially on Sundays in Cuban restaurants, and I have even called ahead to make sure they still have an order since they can sometimes run out. Tamal en cazuela tastes like tamales in soup form: a glorious combination of savory corn meal with ribbons of tender mojo roasted pork shoulder throughout the thick corn stew. This traditional stew is like Cuban polenta with pork and is classically enjoyed with platanos maduros on the side or fresh sliced banana. Crushed up chicharrones on top add to the pork flavor and provides great crunch in each bite.


When masa de puerco was on the menu for dinner my abuela always used the left over pork chunks (masa de puerco) for a tamal en cazuela the next day. You can use masa de puerco and left over roasted pork or you can quick-marinade ground or chopped pork and cook it for the tamal en cazuela that day. As fall descends and temperatures drop, tamal en cazuela was exactly what I was craving. The thick corn porridge with marinated pork and Cuban sofrito will instantly feel like comfort food no matter where you’re from.


Tamal en Cazuela

For the pork:

  • 1 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into pieces or roughly ground (or left over roasted pork)
  • 1cup mojo criollo
  • Juice of half a lime

For the soup:

  • 1 medium onion ground in the food processor
  • ½ medium green bell pepper ground in the food processor
  • 2 cups corn meal
  • 1/4 cup of mojo (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup white Spanish wine (vino seco)
  • 2 cups frozen corn (defrosted) or canned works as well
  • 1/3 stick of butter
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • One package Goya with Saffron seasoning or chicken or ham bullion also work

To serve:

  • Salt to taste
  • Crumbled chicharrones for garnish
  • Lime wedges

If you are cooking fresh pork for this recipe, heat some olive oil in a pan and cook the marinated pork through set it aside. Preheat a pan on medium to low with olive oil. Once the pan is hot cook the white onion and green bell pepper until soft. The peppers are meant to be a subtle in this dish and be tasted but not seen.

While the onions are cooking take the corn meal mix. Pulse the defrosted frozen corn in the food processor just enough so you still have small corn pieces in the mix. Add the corn meal to the food processor and create a rough mixture.  Now return to the onions and peppers and add the tomato sauce and stir allowing it to cook for a few minutes. When the mixture is cooked enough that you can see to the bottom of the pot add the butter and melt with the sofrito you just created.


Add corn meal mix, water, milk, salt and pepper in a large cazuela. Stir in the mojo and dry white wine (vino seco). Bring to a quick boil and immediately put to simmer. Continually stir the stew while it is coming to a boil. Since the mixture will be very thick the bottom of the pot can burn. Add 3 large left over masas de puerco or about a pound of roasted pork to simmer with the rest of the tamal en cazuela. These will easily shred while mixing the stew. Add the Goya seasoning packet or bullion at this point.


Simmer for around half an hour depending on the thickness (you definitely want the corn meal to get soft). My abuela’s receipe called for simmering for an hour or so, but my tamel en cazuela thickened very quickly. Remember, you want it to be a bit thick, not too runny. If it’s not thick enough add more corn meal in ¼ cup increments, or conversely add water in ¼ cup increments if it is too thick. Remember, to stir constantly while it cooks. It will burn if it’s too hot or not stirred, but don’t stress it- you don’t have to stir the entire time. Just keep checking on it. When your wooden spoon can stand straight up in the tamal you know it’s thickened enough and is ready to serve. Enjoy the tamal en cazuela with platanos maduros on the side. Some like to top their tamal en cazuela with crushed up chicharones (pork cracklings).


Notes: The fresh mojo that I had recently made gave the stew a strong acidic taste much to my horror. I added the slightest sprinkle of baking soda which according to my internet research helps to counteract overtly acidic foods as it makes them more basic with the increasing pH. The baking soda made the stew bubble and thicken temporarily. I stirred it until the bubbling subsided as the chemical reaction took place and then tasted again before adding more baking soda. It turned out amazing.

Pumpkin Flan


Thanksgiving or even a fall dinner party can be stressful. Hosting triggers my Virgo perfectionist mode and corresponding anxiety so I either sip too much wine or worry too much. I like to prepare as many things as possible in advance so everything the day-of is smooth sailing. Thankfully the last thing you need to worry about is making Thanksgiving dessert because pumpkin flan (or pumpkin crème caramel) can be made a day or two day in advance.


Pumpkin flan embodies all things basic and good in this world. As of October 1st I only want to eat squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and anything else that is golden and orange. Sweet or savory fall’s produce is nutty, rich, and earthy. The pumpkin and spices did not turn the flan orange, but it did impart its sweet buttery flavor accented by fragrant spices. Flan itself is an extremely versatile dessert- I have made coconut flan, Cuban coffee flan, traditional flan, and cream cheese flan.

When it dawned upon me that pumpkin flan was in the realm of possibility I nary shed a tear. I have a foolproof method for manipulating my classic Cuban flan or crème caramel recipe. Where the classic recipe calls for a half cup of milk, I replace this ingredient with a half cup of the flavor I am adding to the flan like a half cup brewed Cuban coffee or a half cup canned shredded coconut. Whether pumpkin flavored or not, flan is a classic dessert worthy to have in your arsenal.


Pumpkin Flan

  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 5 eggs
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch salt

Allow the eggs to get to room temperature. I am convinced room temperature eggs make for a better flan, but go ahead and use them straight out of the fridge if you insist. Make the caramelized sugar coating for the pumpkin flan first since it needs to cool before you can pour in the custard mixture.

This is the hardest part of making the pumpkin flan, just don’t psych yourself out. Add a ½ cup of the white sugar into the flanera. I have never made flan in anything but a flanera. I have seen that people make flan in all sorts of containers, but I swear by the flanera since the lid and locks allow the pumpkin flan to also steam on the inside of the device. Put the sugar on low to medium heat and have a spoon handy to stir.


Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT try to taste the sugar as it is caramelizing. The sugar will be molten hot and will surely burn your tongue and your skin if you touch it. Little sections of the sugar will start to caramelize faster- gently stir the sugar so it doesn’t burn and mixes evenly. The caramelized sugar should be completely clear when it is done. The sugar will be a little cloudy as it melts, and it is not finished until it is crystal clear and a lovely rich amber hue. This part is easy to mess up and burn the caramel. You can still technically use it, but it might not taste as great as a perfectly done caramel. Once the sugar is done caramelizing, hold the flanera with an oven mitt and gently rotate the hot caramel around making sure to coat the sides well. Allow this to cool for 30 minutes or so.


Preheat the oven to 350. Before I got a KitchenAid I used to simply toss all of the flan ingredients into a blender until well mixed. I have whisked the ingredients together, but now I just use the KitchenAid with the whisk attachment and let that baby run for a few minutes. You can literally dump all of the ingredients into a blender, bowl, or KitchenAid. Blend well making sure there are no yellow wisps of the egg yolk or unblended egg whites in the mix. Now place the flanera in a larger 13 x 9 pan and pour the custard mixture into the flanera through a strainer or sieve. You can hear the hardened caramelized sugar cracking as the cool liquid is poured in. Fear not- that is just fine. Now place the flanera lid on and lock in place.

Cut-into-the-perfect-pumpkin-pie-flan Pumpkin-Pie-Flan-on-StellarAsh-Blog

Place the pan and flanera in the middle of the oven and pour water into the pan half way to make a Bain Marie or water bath. You can choose to add the water earlier, but it is difficult to hold the sloshing water bath and gently place it in the oven. Bake for one hour. Sometimes I feel this step out and add 15 minutes or so to be sure the center is firm. You can carefully remove the flanera lid and jiggle to see if the custard has set. There should be some soft jiggle, but not a liquid center.

Remember as the pumpkin flan is cooling with the lid on it will continue to cook through and become firmer. Allow the pumpkin flan to cool on the countertop until you can handle the flanera with bare hands. Place the pumpkin flan in the fridge overnight. I have tried to serve this dessert within 6 hours of making it, and it was simply not cold enough. Make this dessert a day or two in advance!


Before serving run a knife or spatula along the edges to separate it from the dish- normally as the dessert cools it will contract and separate from the sides, but it is always okay to err on the side of caution. Place a plate or your desired serving dish over the flan and invert. You will likely hear the pumpkin flan separate from the bottom with a gurgling noise. Lift the dish carefully and scrape out some of the delicious caramel and pour all over on top. Pause to ooh and aah over the beautiful pumpkin flan you have just made, slice, and enjoy!

*For a pumpkin cheesecake variety use only 4 eggs and add a ½ cup softened cream cheese.