Plantains (or Platanos) are a type of banana that is most often eaten cooked, unlike the more common ‘dessert’ banana. When it’s green and unripe it’s very firm and starchy, but when it ripens, it is quite different: the sugars develop and it becomes softer and sweeter. Both types are delicious when fried and served as a snack or side dish.
I was first introduced to fried plantains at the fantastic Cuban restaurants in West New York and Union City, NJ., where they are served with such delights as Lechon Asado (garlic-spiked roast pork) and “Moros y Cristianos” (black beans cooked with white rice).
The starchy green bananas are cut into 1 inch sections, peeled, fried, smashed down, and then refried until crispy. These are called ‘Tostones’ and are usually sprinkled with salt and sometimes a spritz of lime juice.
‘Maduros’ are made from ripe yellow/brown plantains, often cut into chunks on the bias, then fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter until dark, soft, and sweet. Though they are very different, both tostones and maduros are equally delicious. Or at least they are to me, since I could never decide between them!
These plantain french fries are a sort of vertical variation on the more horizontal tostones. You can use fully green plantains, but I made these with plantains that were a bit riper, green with some yellowish mottling, and the result was like a cross between the flavor of tostones and sweet potato fries. (In other words, wicked good!)
The Lime Cotija Dip is incredible on or in just about anything. You can melt it on top of a grilled steak, roll it up in a wrap, or thin it out a bit to make a dressing for salad. With these fries, it is absolutely off the chain!
Here’s how to make the Mexican Style Sweet Plantain Fries:
Ingredients for the Mexican Style Sweet Plantain Fries:
2 large plantains
Olive & vegetable oil for frying
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
First, cut the plantains into halves or thirds, depending on how large they are and how long you want your fries to be. Then, peel the sections by cutting through the skin lengthwise with the tip of a sharp knife. Make several lengthwise cuts in each section and carefully remove the peel.
Pour 1/4 inch of a combination of olive and vegetable oils in a skillet. Add the garlic clove and heat the oil, mashing the garlic clove a little to release the oils. Discard the garlic clove before it browns. Fry the plantains in batches until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
Ingredients for the Lime Cotija Cheese Dip:
1/2 cup mayo (preferably Duke’s Mayo)
1/2 cup grated Cotija cheese (available in many supermarkets and Mexican groceries)
Juice of 1/2 small lime (about 1 Tbsp)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp minced parsley (plus a bit more for garnish)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Thoroughly mix all ingredients and refrigerate for half an hour or more (more is better.)
Makes 1 cup.
Please join us tomorrow to read our newest food feature on HuggingtheCoast.Com, Boiled Peanuts: Eating Goobers on the Half Shell.
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