Some people are just better at celebrating holidays. In Puerto Rico, the season starts after Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas and Three Kings Day to the Octavas and Octavitas, a religious observance that extends the celebration through mid-January. The Fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastián caps it all off over the course of three days in Old San Juan. Friends will show up at loved ones’ houses singing and playing music, like Christmas caroling but with maracas, güiros and cuatros.
It’s common during these celebrations to make large batches of pasteles. Similar to tamales, pasteles are a combination of grated green unripe bananas called guineos, plantains and either yautia or yuca, blended to make a masa seasoned with achiote oil. The filling — pork, ham or chicken simmered in a sofrito of peppers and onions, then mixed with garbanzos, olives, capers and raisins — is tucked into the prepared dough and wrapped in plantain leaves. Once the pasteles are filled and wrapped, they can be frozen, then steamed or boiled just before serving so they’re ready to welcome anyone who may turn up at your door.
Pasteles Puertorriqueños: Puerto Rican Tamales Recipe