FRIED PLANTAINS

September 11, 2009

Stephanie had an African-American father and a Puerto-Rican mother, and taught me how to make tostones, twice-fried, salty plantains. By luck of the subletting draw, I was her roommate for six weeks one summer in D.C., and I still remember her frying up a storm in our tiny Columbia Heights kitchen.  I stood with Jill, who was visiting for July fourth, over a paper-towel lined plate, waiting eagerly for the next finished batch and crowding our good-natured cook.

plantains frying again

Plantains had never been presented to me this way before, with a crust of toothy resistance on the outside and smooth goodness on the inside.  Though I lost touch with Stephanie soon after my sublet was up, I still make tostones the way I learned from her—frying once, then smashing each slice inside a Ziploc bag with the back of a water glass before returning it to the hot oil a second time.  A generous sprinkling of salt, and there is arguably no better accompaniment for a cold beer on a hot day.

Is anything more universally satisfying than fried food?  Is there a single human culture that has yet to discover the joys of dropping, well, just about anything into a pot of scalding-hot oil?  The French, of course, have given us their pommes frites, our beloved fries.  Japan is the home of everything tempura-battered, and samosas are now ubiquitous at Indian restaurants.  Italians perfected the art of frying baby artichokes and succulent rings of calamari, and Southern fried chicken is a near-universal craving.  As my mother in one of her cruder moments put it, you could probably fry shit and it would taste good.

lone plantain

I must make a confession.  I’ve become one of *those* people.  Those people who structure their entire fall around a televised game schedule, who politely decline invitations that conflict with home games, who scream and yell for a bunch of guys running around on a well-tended field of turf.  I’ve crossed over to the dark side now.  I’m officially a football fan.

My father did his best to cultivate my appreciation for the sport when I was younger, so I at least had a basic sense for how to watch the game.  But football never “clicked” with me until last year. Jill and Sonya, who have long been avid fans of the game, played fantasy football for the first time.  And when I say played, I mean became obsessed with.  While their team, the Junky Cowboys (not a comment on the state of Dallas’ team, rather an inside joke resulting from confusion over the band name, Cowboy Junkies) didn’t win the league championship (still a sore subject), fantasy football became the vehicle through which I learned to love football.

It’s a famous joke that football is the most widely-practiced religion down here in Texas—I think that’s probably true.  We have our rituals, our superstitions, our weekly gatherings, a shared sense of purpose, and our foods.  On Sunday around noon, while Jill and Sonya are obsessing over stats and lineups, I’m usually messing around in the kitchen, whipping up something to snack on over the course of the afternoon.  All of that screaming at the TV works up an appetite, you know.

So the Feelin’ Kinda Sunday Series will feature various football snacks, from the savory to the sweet, that have been met with success in my NFL-happy household.  Every Friday from now until the Super Bowl, I’ll share recipes that will translate easily to the weekend.  Even if your house is not a football house, I think you’ll be able to find a place for these goodies.  As always, we’ll feature a random-but-seasonally-appropriate smattering of posts on Tuesdays–coming up next week, Part II of Anders Wine Tasting Basics & some really, really good cookies.

In the meantime, I’m curious, Blue Jean Gourmet readers, are you into football?  And what’s your favorite thing to eat fried?

TOSTONES (twice-fried, salty plantains)

These are Sonya’s absolute favorites; I try to make them regularly so as to keep bribing her into taking gorgeous pictures for me!  While a bit time-consuming to make, tostones are totally worth it.  If you are not using to frying things at home, don’t be intimidated–these don’t require all that much oil, and are pretty forgiving.  While they’re lovely plain, we also L-O-V-E them dipped in guacamole.

Plantains are part of the banana family, but contain much more starch, like a potato.  If the idea of a fried banana wigs you out, don’t worry, I feel you.  These taste far milder and fry up beautifully–a perfect crunch on the outside, with a creamy give on the inside.  Look for plantains that are ripe (yellow with a few brown spots) but still firm.

ingredients: plantains & guac

2-3 plantains

canola or a similarly-flavorless vegetable oil

salt

To peel the plantains, slice off both ends with a sharp knife.  Then run your knife down the length of each plantain (don’t cut too deep!), front and back.  Remove the peel.  Cut each plantain into thick slices, about ½ inch thick.  Genly press the slices between paper towels  to remove excess moisture.

Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with a shallow (¼ inch) pool of oil.  Heat on medium-high until the oil is shimmering–test it with a plantain–if the oil immediately bubbles around the slice, it’s ready.  You may need to adjust the temperature of the oil as you go, if your plantains are taking too long or, conversely, getting too brown.

Fry the plantains in batches until they are light brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  Remove to a paper-towel lined plate while finishing.  Turn the heat down on the oil while you smash the plantains.  To smash, simply place each plantain (you can do a few at a time) inside a Ziploc bag and smush with the bottom of a heavy glass.

Once all of the plantains have been smashed, re-heat your oil for a second frying.  Because the second round of plantains will be thinner, I recommend you heat your oil a bit less–say, if your stove was at a “7” the first time around, turn it down to a “5.”

Fry the plantains, once again in batches, until golden brown.  Serve hot, sprinkled with coarse salt.

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16 Comments »

  1. You’re talking to a serious hockey fan here – I am Canadian after all. And put a plate of onion rings in front of me and I will go weak at the knees. But the last time I fried anything at home it was bunuelos (sp?). And that was a good 8 years ago. No hood fan means no frying.

    Comment by Cheryl Arkison — September 11, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  2. These sound delicious! I’m not much of an organized sports gal, but I DO love to throw a Superbowl party every year and watch the game. Mainly for the party food and commercials…but does that count for something?

    Comment by Phoo-D — September 11, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  3. YUM!!! Those looks soooo good!!!

    Comment by Marguerite — September 11, 2009 @ 2:54 pm

  4. Yum! two of my favorite things….now you just need some sangria…

    ~Kathy

    Comment by healthy-happy-life.com — September 11, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

  5. I never thought of combining these together…great appetizer for sure.

    Comment by BAKING is my ZeN — September 12, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  6. how interesting! I’ve had more than my fair share of guacamole in my life, but never with plantain chips! i’ll have to try that.

    Comment by Jada — September 12, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  7. *love* tostones. and pretty much any iteration of plantain I’ve ever encountered (maduros, mofongo, you name it).

    (…but… pommes frites = Belgian origin)

    Comment by durhamagyar — September 13, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  8. oh those look insanely delicious. must try! xx

    Comment by fanny — September 13, 2009 @ 11:52 am

  9. hi all–thanks for visiting BJG & taking the time to comment–ya’ll gotta try the tostones/guac combo! I promise, it’s a winner.

    durhamagyar–I’ve been dying to get my hands on some authentic mofongo. and thanks for enlightening me: I enjoyed warm frites, late at night in a newspaper cone with spicy mayonnaise when I was last in Amsterdam, but didn’t realize that the Belgians take original credit for their invention!

    Comment by bluejeangourmet — September 13, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  10. These were totally delicious last weekend, and I’m thrilled to see them up on BJG! We’re making them tomorrow night.

    Comment by cara blue — September 13, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

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  12. Oooh–Tostones are my favorite. I learned to make them from my Cuban uncle; his recipe is similar, except he always uses un-ripe (very green) plaintains. Recently, my mom stumbled upon a great modification –> after the smash, let the plaintains cool, then submerge each batch in a bowl of water. Pull the plaintains out of the water, pat dry and do the second fry. This gives the tostones a fluffy interior and a crisp outer shell. Oh so good. 🙂

    Comment by Casi — September 16, 2009 @ 7:08 pm

  13. Casi, it’s nice to have you here at BJG–thanks for taking the time to read & comment. I love hearing about your uncle’s tostones recipe…I have made with green plantains before and love the way they crisp up. I’m going to have to try this cold water technique, too! I think I saw Alton Brown do something similar when he had his plantain/banana show. hope to see you around here in the future.

    Comment by bluejeangourmet — September 17, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  14. I have a friend who made tostones for a dinner party a few months ago, celebrating her Cuban heritage. This girl converted a detester of all things banana into …. well…. someone who decided to play bartender and mix people drinks, in an effort to keep from stealing the platter, running away and eating every single last disc of deep-fried deliciousness.

    My favorite fried food, oddly enough, is fried pickles. I love them. I make them when I need a team to win a big playoff game or beat a big rival. I feel somehow as though this helps — the Red Sox have never lost on a fried pickle night. Nor have the Celtics, come to that.

    I love sports. I love football Sundays. Next time people come over to watch and drink beer, I’m TOTALLY making tostones and guac. YAY!!!

    Comment by Joh — September 21, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

  15. Joh! I’m SO with you on the fried pickles–it’s a Southern staple where I am from. Do you make yours with spears or chips? Have you posted about them before? I’d love to see how you make your batter. Ooh, now I have a craving…salty, fried goodness…mmmmm

    Comment by bluejeangourmet — September 29, 2009 @ 10:14 am

  16. […] back in September, I came across this post, and I’ve been thinking about making fried plantains ever since.  The last picture in the […]

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