Posted June 13th, 2012
by Grace, Transitional General Manager
Okay, they’re not really bananas, they’re fabulous plantains, a staple in Latin America & the Caribbean. I first discovered the tasty plantain while visiting Olympia’s sister city in Nicaragua, Santo Tomás, Chontales. Chontales is cattle land, well know for its raw crema and cuajada, a salty semi-firm cheese that is served with every meal. Whether you like your plantains fried green into a salty crunchy side dish called tostones, or fried ripe into a soft, sweet maduro, plantains provide a flavorful addition to any plato típico.
Since plantains are green before they’re ripe, let’s start withTostones.
Ingredients: 2 green plantains, oil for frying, salt.
For both these recipes, choose an oil that can withstand high heat without burning. I used olive oil, because that’s what I had on hand, but a less flavorful oil will highlight the rich taste of the plantain better. I’d suggest sunflower, peanut or safflower oil.
- In a frying pan, heat about an inch of oil to 375 degrees.
- While the oil is heating, peel and slice the plantains into 3/4 inch thick medallions.
- Fry the slices in the hot oil for about 3 minutes until they are light golden and semi-soft.
- Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the plantain slices and drain on paper towels on a firm surface. Keep the pan of oil hot for step 6.
- Let the plantain slices cool until you can handle them (should only take a minute or two). Smash them into flat rounds, about 1/4 inch thick.
- Fry the rounds a second time in the hot oil for 3 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the tostones, drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt to taste while they are warm. Eat with crema (or substitute sour cream) and anything you like to dip, like guacamole, salsa, garlic dip, etc. Although I prefer eating them fresh and warm, tostones can be served cold and can be stored for a day or two in an airtight container.
Maduros – my personal favorite.
This time, start with ripe plantains, the gnarlier the better. Once the plantains look like a banana that’s only suitable for banana bread, the plantain is ready to fry into maduros. Maduros are typically fried whole or sliced lengthwise, and are only fried once. Otherwise, the process is almost identical to steps 1-3 above.
- Heat about an inch of oil to 375 degrees.
- Peel and slice lengthwise the ripe plantains.
- Fry the plantains until they are golden brown. Remove and drain.
- Serve the plantains with whole or refried beans, crema and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. You can also sweeten the sour cream a bit to compliment the incredible sweetness of the fried plantains.
Safety tip: If you’re like me and don’t have a fancy deep fryer, practice good kitchen safety by keeping the frying pan handles turned to the center of your stove top. This prevents children and sleeves from accidentally pulling pans full of hot oil off the stove.