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Start the year off with Jose Oquendo's Pastelon (it's basically a lasagna)

'The Secret Weapon' here is plantains.

Detroit Tigers v St Louis Cardinals

I know I'm a few days late, but happy new year, VEBers. While the news this offseason hasn't always been favorable for the Cardinals, one development that garnered near universal praise throughout Cardinalia was the return of Jose Oquendo to the dugout.

So why not celebrate with this recipe for Pastelon from Zenaida Oquendo?

4 ripe plantains

Oil for frying

2 lbs ground beef

12 cup chopped green pepper

12 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 can (8oz) tomato sauce

1 can (17 oz) corn, drained

Sliced cheese

Cut the plantains in lengthwise slices; fry until light brown. Set aside. Brown ground beef with peppers, onion and garlic. Add tomato sauce and corn. In a square baking dish, layer plantains, then meat mixture, then cheese. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Bake 15-20 minutes at 325º or until cheese is melted.

I'd never heard of pastelon before, but it seems to be a fairly popular dish in both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It's obviously a lot like lasagna, and in fact some recipes you find online will actually refer to it as "Puerto Rican Lasagna."

Let's take it one step further: If you told someone to simply make a lasagna but substitute fried plantains for noodles, you'd pretty much have this recipe. So how did it turn out?

One challenge in working with the plantains is to slice them to just the right thickness - too thin and they'll crisp up like chips when you fry them, too thick and they'll stay chewy on the middle. But if you hit it just right - and I'm talking maybe a 14 of a inch - you'll get a great texture: A bit of crunch, then creamy on the inside.

Overall, I cut my plantains just a bit too thick on this first attempt. As for the rest of the ingredients, it's... you know... fine? The end result was just a bit bland for my tastes, but you could easily spice this recipe up in just about any direction you'd like. If you've got a family lasagna recipe you want, and simply want to substitute the plantains in, I'd say go for it.

I follow @shitty_lasagna on Twitter, so I admit I'll be watching the feed to see if this appears.

Next week, I'm planning to close things out with the last Hot Stove Cooking with the Cardinals recipe of the season.