Chef Miguel Trinidad demonstrates the two dishes in this week’s episode of Chefs at Home.

By Bridget Hallinan
December 21, 2020
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Following Caroline Schiff’s latke demonstration last week, this week’s episode of Chefs at Home features chef Miguel Trinidad, who’s preparing two Dominican holiday dishes—pernil and pasteles. The executive chef and owner of 99th Floor prepares the pernil first, and then, shreds some of it for pasteles, which he says are “very similar to tamales.” Read on for his step-by-step method and follow along with the video above. 

First Up: Pernil

For his pernil, Trinidad uses a pork leg—about five to six pounds—which he pricks with a knife so the marinade can penetrate the meat. You can make the marinade in either a food processor or mortar and pestle, and you’ll need the following ingredients: vinegar, olive oil, 15 cloves of garlic, and Dominican oregano (which “gives off a nuttier flavor to the meat”). Mix it to form a loose paste, and rub it all over the meat. Then, let it marinate for “at least 72 hours.”

When it’s time to cook the meat, you’ll want to bake it at 325°F for two hours skin-side down, and then, flip and bake it for another two and a half hours. The end result, as Trinidad demonstrates, is incredibly tender and juicy. He lets the meat cool before shredding some to make the next dish, the pasteles.

How to Make Pasteles

The masa for these pasteles is made with a mix of grated green plantains, yautia, and kabocha squash. (Masa for tamales, on the other hand, is made from nixtamalized corn.) Mix them together in a bowl, and then add garlic powder, Spanish paprika, onion powder, salt, Dominican oregano, and pepper, as well as annatto oil, which Trinidad says will “give it a slight nuttiness” and is “quintessential to Dominican pasteles.”

Although these are traditionally wrapped with banana leaves and then parchment paper, if you can’t find the leaves, you can wrap them in just parchment paper, as Trinidad does in this video. He recommends using 11-by-14-inch or 11-by-16-inch sheets, which will leave room for folding. Add in four tablespoons of masa in the center of the paper and pat the mixture down, and then, add some of the shredded pernil on top. Then add another two tablespoons of masa to cover it. Trinidad then demonstrates how to wrap the tamales up in the parchment paper (use a tri-fold technique) and tie them with butchers’ twine—make sure they’re tightly wrapped, so the filling doesn’t leak out.

The pasteles go into boiling water for an hour, and then, they’re ready to go. “You can finish it off any way that you like,” Trinidad says, and he suggests a little salt and Tabasco as an example.

“It’s Christmas, it’s the holidays,” he says. “Whenever you pop open a pastele, it’s like opening up a little gift.”

Come back next Monday, December 28 for our next episode of Chefs at Home featuring Diep Tran.