Sunday, September 5, 2010

Plantains are on my Plate Today

Labor day in the US.  A Summer Bank Holiday where everyone goes out and has cookouts and eats way too much.  Outside of the United States, people are probably saying what's different from every day?

Snide comments aside, it is a fun holiday.  If you enjoy cooking, this is a chance for you to get your favorite recipe and try it out.  There's always extra so the neighborhood ends up being a giant rolling feast or a pot luck dinner party if there isn't anything official.

Later today, I'm planning on having burgers, fries, boiled yuca and probably something else for lunch.  This afternoon I'm thinking about baking a Key Lime Pie

This is Florida after all, and I've been making them since the early 1980s.  I went to GFS yesterday, visited with Vanessa there and the rest of the friendly folks in Ft Lauderdale, and got five ready made graham cracker pie crusts and that means that I'll be making a lot of pies over the next month.  I will do a post once I get the recipe all figured out.  My sister made it for a friend up in Cherry Hill, NJ, and it turned out wonderful.

Since I've been down here, I've been exposed to new foods.  Most of the new foods I have enjoyed.  The problem is that while I am not a professional cook, I am detail oriented enough to want to try the recipe myself.  If you turn a Project Manager loose in a kitchen you get some interesting results.

If I like it, and you can make it, why can't I make it too?

I have always enjoyed going to a specific fast food restaurant here and having boiled yuca, rice and beans, and a half chicken.  It comes with Candied or Sweet Plantains.

Plantains are the big ugly brother of the banana family.  Kind of like me.  They can be cooked, I've had them raw and they aren't as sweet as the usual "Cavendish" variety.  They're usually about twice the size of a large banana, and are sold Green, Yellow, and Black.  Each color has a different use.  You can make them into savory dishes, have them mashed for breakfast which is something I'll try in the future, or sweet.  Basically each of those choices for each of those colors respectively.  Your Mileage May Vary.

My favorite is the sweet plantains.  You get golden chunks of fruit cooked, served typically warm with a sweet coating.  I never knew what was on them or how to even attempt to cook them until I finally decided enough was enough and pursued it myself.

If you want to try this, read this narrative at least once - there's a lot of judgment in how I made these things.  Basically I was done when they just looked "Right"!  Also remember, I've done this a couple times and got it right each time - its a very forgiving fruit and unless you burn it, it is hard to get it wrong.  Since I am writing from memory - you will want to use your own judgment.  Yes, there's that word again - if you burn your kitchen down well, it makes for a great story and it is at your own risk just like anything in life, come on back and write in my comments about it!  :)

So here we go, this is what I found.

The setup is that I used a non stick pan which is not really traditional.  I don't like cleaning goo off of my good iron skillet so to the teflon I went.  This recipe is easier in a non stick pan.

To the skillet I added about a teaspoon and a half of butter and put the thing on medium heat. 

While the skillet was melting the butter, I sliced the Plantain.  Everywhere I have seen it done in thick chunks, about 4 to 8 per Plantain.  I wanted more so I sliced them thinner.

Remember Thin Slices Cook Faster!  This recipe takes about 5 minutes more or less to cook.  It's quick!

Now that the butter was melted, I added the chunks of plantains to the skillet.  On top of the chunks I scattered about a teaspoon of sugar, and eventually added more.   The idea is to get some on everything, and mix some up with the butter.  Flip the chunks around so the sugar gets on the bottom of the pan and mixes in well.   Stir the chunks around and now you basically have a sauce forming of butter and sugar.  

What you have is a skillet bubbling with plantains cooking and a toffee sauce, butter and sugar, in the base.

When the plantains begin to turn a golden brown on the bottom side, flip them and repeat.  When you flip them, dust the entire skillet with Cinnamon Powder if you like it.  Stir the plantains around to get the cinnamon mixed in the toffee in the bottom of the pan.   Flip them if you like - the goal is to get everything coated with cinnamon, sugar, butter and cooked well.

The plantains are ready when they're cooked to an amber color, tender, and coated with that sugary goo.

Remove the plantains, serve warm with the syrup from the bottom of the pan if there is any left. 

My plantains were actually a little bit crispy because the syrup turned into a brittle candy on the outside.  I liked the effect and will try for that again but it will require more butter and sugar than I used.

Skillet - I used a 9 inch non stick skillet.

1 or 2 plantains at the yellow to black stage.  Each one serves two people.  Sliced to 4 to 8 or more slices per fruit.

Butter - minimum of 1 teaspoon per fruit.  You need to cover the pan lightly and the butter will be the sauce they're served in.

Sugar - minimum of about 1 1/2 Teaspoons per Plantain.  It is traditional to use brown sugar but I used ordinary white sugar the last time and it was good too.

Ground Cinnamon - Dust to Taste.

If you try this, please let me know in the comments.  I love the stuff, I must be a crazy anglo but I really do enjoy these sweet things.

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