Piononos are Puerto Rican specialty that probably came to the island by way of Argentina and Italy. Pope Pius IX, or “Pio Nono,” as he was both affectionately and not so affectionately known, was a glutton who loved a cake with cream inside, somewhat like a jelly roll; thus the Vatican cooks renamed the cake after him. Italian immigrants brought piononos to Argentina in the 1900s, and there different renditions were created, some sweet, some savory, such as this one.—Norman Van Aken
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon minced, seeded Scotch bonnet chile
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, green and white parts, minced
1/2 medium Spanish onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
12 ounces ground pork
2 teaspoons cumin seeds toasted in a dry skillet until fragrant, and then ground
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 large plantains, yellow but starting to turn black
1/2 cup canola or peanut oil
1/2 cup finely grated Manchego cheese
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the Scotch bonnet and garlic and stir for 15 seconds. Add the scallion, onion, bell pepper, poblano, and cilantro. Saute over medium-high heat, for 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Stir in the pork and cumin and cook, stirring frequently, until the pork is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
2. Peel the plantains and slice them length-wise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick strips. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Saute the plantains in batches of 3, without crowding, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes on each side; be sure not to get them too dark, or they’ll turn brittle. Transfer the plantain slices to paper towels to drain.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
4. When the plantain strips are cool enough to handle, one at a time, spread each strip with a thin layer of pork filling. Roll it up — it will look like pinwheel — and secure with a toothpick. Place the piononos on a parchment-lined baking sheet and top with the grated cheese.
5. Place the piononos in the oven for 10 minutes, or until heated through. Transfer to plates and serve.
An assertive white wine from Spain or a micro-brewed Pilsner beer.
Recipe © 2003 Norman Van Aken. All rights reserved.