Monday, September 27, 2010

Twice Fried Plantains

   I'll be the first to admit that I can't fry anything.  I've tried, but it is usually a disaster if the fry requires anything more than achieving an outer crust.  Shrimp, chicken, battered vegetables... but I can fry some amazing plantains.  Twice fried plantains are a great snack, appetizer, or side dish with a Caribbean style curry or tacos.

   If you don't know what a plantain is, they are the large banana looking things over near the strangely shaped melons, coconuts, knobby roots, and other unknowns that most people avoid in the produce section.  You can find them green, yellow, and black; the colors are due to the varying levels of ripeness.  Each stage lends itself to different applications.  The blacker the plantain the sweeter it is, but it will not be the same sweetness as a banana.  Yes, they are related and plantains have a hint of banana flavor.  However, they are essentially a savory item.  (Think of them as the sweet potato of the palm family.  Sweet enough for dessert dishes, but better suited for the main meal.)  They have a touch of sweetness with a lovely mild sour-bitter note at the end.  Plantains are a great source of vitamins A, C, and B6 and in general contain more potassium than bananas.

Fried Plantains
3 large yellow plantains
~1/2 C vegetable oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp chili powder

In an 8-10 inch cast iron skillet (or heavy bottom non-stick skillet) pour in 3/4-1 inch of vegetable oil.  Heat over medium high heat.  To check if oil is ready for frying, place the end of a wooden toothpick into the oil.  If tiny bubbles quickly release from the toothpick, the oil is ready.
Combine salt and chili powder.
Cut off ends of plantains, score skin  lengthwise, and peel.  It is very fibrous, so the more score marks, the easier to peel.  Slice plantains on a bias about 1/2-3/4 in thick.  Fry slices for 2-3 minutes on each side, until just starting to turn golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain.  Use a sturdy spoon to lightly smash the cooked pieces.  (I find a large wooden spoon works best.)  Return to oil and fry until golden, about 3 minutes a side.  Remove and immediately sprinkle with salt mixture.
4 side dish servings

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