Sunday, August 9, 2009
Several years ago, I lived in Guatemala as a missionary for my church. While all of the food was foreign to me, I soon grew to love it. One of my all time favorite dishes became plantains, or 'platanos fritos' as we knew them. We could walk down the streets and I would smell them cooking in the houses...then I'd crave them all day long!
Plantains are surprisingly versatile in cooking. Several countries including Honduras and Puerto Rico use them green, sliced thinly and fried in oil. Once they've drained, but while hot, they are smashed and salted, and slightly resemble a potato chip.
After living in Guatemala, I thought I could have written a cookbook of 101 ways to prepare a plantain. Besides fried, I also like to microwave them with a small amount of water for 2-4 minutes, and eat them with a little sugar sprinkled on them. They can also be baked with cinnamon and drizzled with cream.
When purchasing plantains, keep in mind that their flavor corresponds to their ripeness. Sold in most grocery stores next to the bananas, they look exactly like bananas, but bigger (they are sometimes known as 'macho bananas'). When they are green and very firm, they are very starchy - almost like biting into a raw potato. As they ripen, their skins begin to turn black. While they may appear spoiled or as a rotten banana, the darker their skins become, the sweeter they become. If they aren't quite dark yet, leave them on the counter top for several days until their skins darken and they become soft to touch.
Here's my family's favorite recipe for fried plantains.
4 plantains (found in the grocery section next to the bananas)
Salt and sugar to taste
Over medium heat, place 2-4 T. vegetable oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
On a cutting board, slice off the tip of the plantain, and then peel the fruit, discarding the skin.
Horizontally slice each plantain into strips between 1/8 inch - 1/4 inch.
Place the plantain strips into the hot oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and sugar.
After approximately 2 minutes (as the plantains are beginning to brown) using a fork, flip and continue to cook on the opposite side. Lightly sprinkle with salt and sugar. Once cooked through and slightly darkened, remove and drain on paper towels prior to serving.
These may be sprinkled with cinnamon, or drizzled with cream as well.