By the time the holiday cooking fever has broken, there is very little entertaining ambition left for New Year’s Eve. Whether you’re having people over or looking for something to bring, summoning the energy to head back into the kitchen can be a challenge. Pastelitos de carne – well-seasoned picadillo cooked in a sofrito of peppers and onions and tucked into flaky pastry – are a staple Cuban-American parties and easy way to see out the year.
Though ordered by the tray-full in Miami bakeries, they’re simple enough to make at home with prepared puff pastry dough. Raisins, capers and olives are added to a simmering pot of ground beef to find the right balance of sweet and savory. They can be as hearty as full-sized emapandas or cut into smaller tapa-sized rounds to feed a crowd. Versatile and easily adapted for leftovers, these pastries can also be filled with ham, chorizo or shellfish. With the clock winding down, it’s good to have options.
Pastelitos de Carne/Picadillo-Filled Pastries
For the picadillo filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 tablespoons green olives stuffed with pimientos, sliced
For the pastry:
2 sheets frozen puff pastry dough, thawed (from one 17 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry sheets)
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
1/4 cup sugar
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the beef and break it up so there are no lumps. Add the raisins, wine, oregano, salt, pepper and sugar (if using). Simmer covered over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until mostly dry. Stir in raisins, capers, green olives and adjust the seasoning. Set aside to cool.
Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a steady simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the first sheet of pastry to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 18-20 pastry rounds using a 2 1/2-inch round cutter. Cover each round with beaten egg wash. Add one tablespoon of the filling to the center of each round.
Roll out remaining sheet of pastry and cut out an equal amount of pastry rounds. Top each filled round, pressing down the sides to seal. Brush the tops with beaten egg wash. Set in the preheated oven and bake until lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes.
To glaze, remove the pastelitos from the oven and lightly brush with simple syrup, if using.*
Note: Traditionally, the pastries are brushed with simple syrup just out of the oven for an added layer of sweetness. The seasoning can be adjusted or the glaze left out entirely to taste.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog hungrysofia.com. From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.