What measures between 8-10 in., is available in a variety of colors, is good for you and makes you happy and is best warm? A PLANTAIN! I hope your mind didn’t go too far in the gutter, well, I hope it did, at least a little. This side dish is so good it makes you feel naughty when you eat it.
This time I’m writing about the green ones. Sometimes referred to as machos, plantains are cousins to the banana. Unlike their cousins, plantains need to be cooked before eating and are considerably starchier. Just like a banana, a plantain starts off green and ripens over a period of about 1 week. It is a staple in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines at any stage of ripeness.
When green, you’ll see them used as chips and patacones (tostones depending on the country), as they ripen and become sweet they may be served as tajadas and even used for desserts. Believe me, there are many possibilities for this fruit and I will visit a few of them. For now, it’s time for patacones!
I will do my best to walk you through this process and I want to tell you up front, it is an easy dish BUT, it does have a number of steps to follow. It is a food of care, I won’t say love because it isn’t that involved. Think of these as making twice fried fries. Ready? Let’s do it.
Preping the plantains. I wish I had known about this method when I started making these in my teens. You get the benefit of this trick I picked up from a cooking show. I’d love to give credit where it’s due, but I can’t remember which show it was. I digress.
2 large green plantains
You will need wax paper, a deep fryer or a pot that will hold about 4 cps of oil (you want to cook them in oil that is at least 3-in deep), something to smash them–the bottom of a glass, the flat side of a meat cleaver.
Preping the plantains (for real this time). Give them a scrub under running water. Plantains have a milky sap that leaks once they’re harvested. I find that this sap attracts dust and debris, so take a sponge to them.
Once you’ve rinsed them, trim the ends and score the plaintain lengthwise following its ridges. You want to have about 4-5 lines going from top to bottom.
Preheat the oil to 350°
Remove them from the water and peel the plantains beginning from one of the ends. If you can’t catch the skin, take a paring knife and pry the skin up at the corner, then peel like you would a banana.
Once the thick skin has been removed, check the plantain for any silk left behind. Sometimes the skin will separate and remain stuck to the plantain, you have to remove it all before cooking.
Cooking the plantain ~ 1st fry. Cut the plantain into rounds about 1-1/2 inches wide. You’ll get about 6-8 rounds from a regular size plantain. Toss them in a bowl with 1 tsp sea salt; you will salt them before each frying. Once you’ve salted them, drop them into the preheated oil. You’ll want to move them around to make sure they’re cooking evenly. Make sure the oil isn’t too hot, this first step is about cooking the plantain, not browning it. It will take about 10-15 minutes to get them cooked through.
While they’re frying, get your assembly line ready to smash them. You will need 2 sheets of wax paper and whatever you’ll use to smash them. The wax paper isn’t a must, but it makes life super easy when squishing these. The faster you smash and put them back in the oil, the flakier the patacones will be.
Remove the patacones from oil and drain. Raise the oil’s temperature to 400°. Salt the patacones and toss. See hubby’s moves.
Now the fun begins or the release of the day’s tensions, whichever you need that day. After you’ve salted them, line up these puppies on one of the sheets of wax paper then cover them with the other sheet. Using a glass or another flat surface, smash them to about 1/4 inch thickness.
2nd fry – As I mentioned, you’ll want to do this as quickly as possible. Put them back in the oil, which should now be up to 400º, and fry them for the 2nd time. This time you’re looking to add some color, depending on the heat and how many are in, this will take another 5 minutes or so.
Drain and eat. They’re best pipping hot.