Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fried Sweet Plantains & Tostones

Black is beautiful for the sweetest Fried Plantains. Green is the color for the nutty, potato-like Tostones. When shopping for plantains keep this in mind.

In this week's continuation of all things Cubano, I'll show you how to prepare both Fried Plantains and fried Tostones. It's an easy and quick dish to make; the only hard part is finding plantains. I go to my local Latin market where they sell for about 50 cents a pound, just the right price for this El Tightwad Cuisiner. Since the majority of the Los Angeles populace is Latino, I find that plantains are carried in almost every large supermarket.

 Maybe you've accidentally bought one thinking it was a regular banana? If you bite into a peeled one, you will get a mouthful of bitterness, but fry up a batch and you will be surprised how mild and sweet it is.

Like French fries, plantains are cooked in oil until brown. You do have to watch the ripened black plantains closely when cooking -- because of their high sugar content they can burn. Tostones don't have that, so they brown more slowly. Plantains can be quite large, and just one makes enough for a serving or two.

If you want a sweet Fried Plantain, buy it almost totally black. It is not rotten, just super sweet. If you get it green or yellow, you'll have to wait a few weeks to get the desired ripeness. In the photo, my plantain was not totally black, so the result was fine, but it could have been sweeter. For Tostones, green is best, but I've used yellow, too.

This is a perfect side for my Cuban Style Roast Pork from last week. And Tostones double as tasty canapes that can be served like tortilla chips or crackers at a party. Be sure to check back next week for my cheapie version of the classic Cuban Sandwich, along with a special cocktail recipe video of a minty 99 Cent Mojito.

Ingredients (each plantain serves 2)
  • 1 green plantain
  • 1 black plantain
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetable oil for frying.
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional).

Directions for Fried Black Plantains
Add oil to a medium-sized pan or pot. You don't need the temperature to be as hot as you would for making  French fries, but go with a low/medium temperature, so you can easily watch that the banana slices don't burn.

A plantain doesn't peel quite as easily as a regular banana - there's a bit of technique involved. While oil is heating up, chop off the banana ends and slice into the peel lengthwise from end to end. Go just deep enough to hit banana flesh. It may be easier if you first slice the banana in half. The skin should peel right off.

Next, slice the banana at an angle so you get about three-inch-long pieces that are about one inch thick. I've also had them sliced small like a typical banana, and that's fine too. Add slices to the pan with oil and fry for about 5 minutes on each side.

Go for a dark brown color. You will need to watch closely toward the end, as brown can turn to black quickly. Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.

Directions for Tostones (green or yellow plantain)
Heat oil the same as above. I managed to cook both of these plantains in a 1/2 cup of oil. Chop off plantain ends, slice into skin lengthwise from top to bottom, and peel. Green plantains are a little trickier to peel. Sometimes the inner peel will stick to the flesh, so just scrape it off.

I use a "two times" frying method. Cut plantains like you would a normal banana; there's no need to cut at an angle, but do cut them at least an inch thick. Add plantain slices to hot oil and lightly brown, about 2 minutes on each side. You are getting the plantains to soften for pressing - the next step.

Take out cooked plantains and allow to cool for a minute. Arrange plantain coins on a plate or cutting board. I used the bottom of a drinking glass to press each fried plantain. You don't need to squish completely flat, just enough to burst the slices, so the flesh will finish cooking completely.

 Next add pressed slices back into the oil for a quick 3-minute fry (or until medium brown), on each side. Serve hot or at room temperature.


TJ said...

Oh wow. I'd die for those prices. I hate having to pay $1.50 per plantain around here... I'm from the Caribbeans, so me and plantains are no strangers. So many things you can do with the ripe plantains... though I prefer them cut a lot thinner, and a lot more diagonally (almost horizontally) for a long, thin stripe that you can fry and it becomes somewhat sweet and crispy. You should make some mofongo with the green plantains... You wont be disappointed!

99 Cent Chef said...

Hi TJ, thanks for the Mofongo recipe, I'll try it ;-P

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