Friday, February 26, 2010

Ask a Muse: How to Cook Plantains

Dear Muses,

I recently discovered plantains. I've only had them fried. How else can I prepare them besides drowning them in hot oil?

-Scrapbook C

Dear Scrapbook C --

Ah, the plantain - that African/Caribbean delight of a food. It may look like a green banana, but it's actually a starchier and more savory version of its cousin. I think of a plantain as the potato of the tropical world. Anything you can do with a potato, you can pretty much do with a plantain - you can mash it, bake it, roast it, boil it, grill it or, as you mentioned, fry it. Fried plantains are pretty typical in Caribbean/Latin establishments, and most people have experienced the plantain in this way.
Included below are two different (and new to you!) preparations for the plantain. Granted, these are the result of a quick Google search, so we cannot endorse these recipes as tried and true. However, that's what the Muses are here for: we are hunters and gatherers of the information you need. Aren't we just the prettiest hunters you ever did see?

It got quiet in here. Ahem. On to the recipes.

Mashed Plantains -- Mangu in the Dominican Republic, Fufu in Cuba - this is a slightly modified (and slightly snootier) version of the mashed plantain. Thanks,!

2 green plantains (1 1/2 pound total)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 lb bacon, chopped (6 slices)
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Using a sharp large heavy knife, cut ends off plantains and slit through peel lengthwise from end to end. Soak in a large bowl filled with 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt 5 minutes. (This makes peel easier to remove.) Remove tough outer peel, using a paring knife if necessary, and cut plantains into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cook, covered, in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan of boiling, salted water until tender, about 20 minutes.

While plantains cook, cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of mixture for garnish, then add milk, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt (mixture may appear curdled). Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Drain plantains in a colander and return to saucepan.

Reheat milk mixture and mash plantains with a potato masher, adding hot milk mixture and butter.

Sprinkle reserved bacon and onion on top.
Muse Suggestion: try pancetta rather than bacon; same effect without that hickory-smoked flavor.

Grilled Plantains -- because the two feet of snow outside have us dreaming of grilling out on a deck in bare feet with a cold beer and warm weather. Who else to turn to but the grill master, Bobby Flay!

2 cups dark rum
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 very ripe plantains (should be almost black), peeled and sliced on the bias into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/4 cup canola oil

Heat grill to high. Place rum, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar has melted and the mixture reduces and thickens slightly. Stir in butter until melted. Remove from the heat.

Brush plantains with oil on both sides and grill until golden brown and caramelized, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Brush with the glaze during the last few minutes of grilling. Remove from the grill and brush with more of the glaze before serving.

Muse Suggestion: try sticking the plantains on skewers, like seen below. Such a pretty presentation, and one would think it allows the plantains to cook more consistently.

What are you waiting for? Get to cooking - and let us know how it turns out!


The Muses


  1. i cannot WAIT to try grilling myself some plantains! I am so inspired! And i have plenty of skewers already. Ooooooooh.
    good thing there's no snow behind my house...

  2. Ok, mashed plantains...YUM!!! I've never made them, but was served them once at a dinner party. Yours sound even better though, because there is BACON in there.