Thursday, March 11, 2010

Versatile, Delicious Plantains

Is this not one of the most beautiful desserts you've ever seen? It's a Banana Plantain Crisp, made by Michelle over at Big Black Dog blog.

A couple weeks ago, after a discussion spurred on by this post, Michelle and I decided it would be fun to do a plantain recipe swap. We'd both post about plantains on the same day, and also post pictures and link to each other's plantain dish.

That was back when I knew absolutely nothing about plantains.
Now? Now I know these things about plantains:

Plantains are more expensive than regular bananas, and you can't find them at every grocery store.
Just like bananas, there are different levels of ripeness. The one on the left, with the black stuff, is more ripe. The one on the right, that's kind of green, is less ripe. The one in the middle? It's . . . well, it's in-between ripe.
I learned that plantains can morph from veggie to fruit. When they're green, they're firmer and similar to potatoes; use as a veggie. When they're blacker, they're softer and sweeter; use for desserts.
Also, keep plantains at room temp. Do not refrigerate.
So what to do with my plantains?
Plucked from the depth of my ever-expanding file of recipes to try

was this wizened newspaper clipping. "Versatile, delicious plantains," it claimed. I believe this article was written sometime during the Carter administration.

The article gave me ideas.
For its first suggestion, I selected the greenest plantain,
then peeled, sliced, and boiled until tender (at least five minutes).
Drain, mash, and season like potatoes.
Not bad.
Suggestion number two: using the medium-ripe plantain, I again peeled and sliced. (Peeling, by the way, takes effort. You don't just peel these babies with your hands like you would a banana. You will need a knife, a sharp one, to pare the skin off.) Saute slices in butter until brown and a bit crispy. Sprinkle with salt.

These make a decent side dish or after-school snack for kids. They're potato-y, kind of like mini hash brown patties you'd get at a fast food restaurant.

The third suggestion was for "fully ripe" fruit. Aaaah, dessert time. I'd saved my blackest plantain for this one.
A surprise, however, was in store. When I cut off the skin, the fruit inside was mottled. My little newspaper clipping had not warned me about mottled fruit. I wasn't sure I wanted to eat mottled fruit. So using my trusty vegetable peeler, I cut off the mottled parts.
Leaving me with this. Posed next to regular bananas for the full effect.
It was a plantain stick. A plantain nugget. A little itty-bitty, mini-plantain.

Not only that, my mini-plantain was very firm. Not much different from the other two. My hopes for a glorious dessert were dashed.

Ditching the article, I decided to slice and saute what was left in butter, salt it and sprinkle with sugar. Hmmm, not bad. Probably the best of the three.
My conclusion? Go visit Michelle over at Big Black Dog blog. When it comes to plantains, that girl knows what she's doing.

So what do you think? Have you ever eaten plantains? Ever cooked with them? Do tell.

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Blogger Michelle said...

This was fun and thanks for accepting my offer of the recipe swap!

I've never had mashed and salted plantains and now I am curious! I do know that they make Plantain Flour and being I love Coconut Flour especially for cookies, I'm now wanting to try Plantain Flour too and it's now on THE LIST!

Great post!

March 11, 2010 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger The Bumbles said...

Haha! I love reading about your misadventures. Your mention of finding mottled fruit and not knowing what to do since the recipe didn't mention that detail is how I feel every time I read a recipe. There's always something that happens or doesn't happen to me that doesn't match the recipe's instructions. So therefore I freak out and just go eat some chocolate instead of forging ahead like you did. Bravo Lynn!

March 11, 2010 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Carpool Queen said...

I was raised on them - Ate them at least once a week. We fried ours, then sprinkled them with just a bit of sugar.

March 11, 2010 at 12:17 PM  
Blogger Julie Harward said...

I just saw her recipe looks so good! Thanks for visiting my blog and the kindness. You have so many good recipes here, it all looks wonderful! Come say hi any time :D

March 11, 2010 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

mmm I love plantains! I'm pretty sure I would have the same misadventures with them though. I've only ever had them in restaurants!

March 11, 2010 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous Faith said...

I agree, this dessert is a real looker! I've had plantains a few times at Puerto Rican restaurants, and I love their slightly sweet flavor. I've never cooked with them, but I'd love to try this!

March 11, 2010 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger myletterstoemily said...

i don't know what to think about
plantains, but i do know what i
think about you!

very funny!!!

March 11, 2010 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger I Love Pretty Little Things said...

Hello, thanks for visitng my blog! I have never tried plantains, but I think taht I should. :)
Your blog is Yummy!

March 11, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger The Muse said...

Dropping in to wish you a most lovely day (well, evening... no...I guess it is really a morning lol) I need sleep :)

My beloved is the true cook at our (our) no my blog, not a true foodie blog in the well honored sense of posting recipes 100% of the time.

To that end, I always feel truly privileged when a true cook even speaks to me...LOL...but I am not a bad Muse, and I am a willing taste tester :)

My beloved...tries a lot of the blog recipes I tell him about...and thus I have eaten quite well !

I don't think he will ever jump into taking over the blog...but he is very instrumental in its working.

Thanks again for stopping by :)

March 11, 2010 at 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Carolyn Jung said...

I have not cooked with them. But I have enjoyed many of them. I like the soft ones sauteed simply at my fave Cuban restaurant. I also like the smashed and fried ones that get the full-blown garlic treatment. With plaintains, you just can't go wrong.

March 11, 2010 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

I've only had plantains as a savory dish. Your sweet version looks good.

March 12, 2010 at 8:12 AM  
Anonymous tasteofbeirut said...

Love plantains but I have never cooked with them. I am usually reluctant to fry stuff because of the mess involved. Love them though and your dish looks mighty good!

March 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Ingrid_3Bs said...

LOL, yes I have eaten plaintains in all it's variations. Your black plaintain while more ripe than the others was not truly ripe. It needed to be MUCH blacker. Then it is super sweet and sauted. (They are sliced thick and on the bias.) These are called plantanos maduros. I grew up eating them along side rice and beans for a play on sweet and savory. The unripe and middle ones are peeled sliced, sauted, then gently smash (but not mashed, you want to press them so they are flattened and look like a cookie.) them and then fry them until crispy. After smashing them I dip them in seasoned water and fry them in my fry daddy. This makes for a crispy outside but tender flavorful middle. Like this they are called tostones.

Hope this was a bit helpful... :)

March 20, 2010 at 3:13 PM  
Blogger Punctuation Mark said...

Yum! those look really good!!! have a good one!!!

March 20, 2010 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I love plantains. I had a Puerto Rican dish when I was a teenager with plantains vinegar and gizzards. IT was really good. Since then I have made them a few times. I like their flavor.

March 28, 2010 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Lynn said...

Lori -- plantains, vinegar, and gizzards? Now that's a new one! I would try it if someone else made it for me ;)

March 31, 2010 at 10:16 AM  

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