Friday, January 30, 2009

And I'm Back!

Sorry about the looooong absence. I had family visiting from the US, as I said below. Then - my keyboard stopped working. I can't begin to tell you how annoying it was to not have a U, I, O or P on the computer. Nearly impossible to type, unless 1 wanted everyth1ng t0 l00k l1ke th1s. (that's ones and zeroes thrown in - and there's NOTHING that substitutes for P!) So anyway... On with the eats!

I haven't been cooking much lately, as the boys aren't spending a lot of time here at home during summer. But I have gone back over my small amount of archives, and been reminded of a few things I wanted to talk about. So today - let's talk about plantains.

Plantains are called platanos in Spanish, and that's how I'll be referring to them here. There are many different types of platano available in Peru from the small, silky bizcocho to the larger, orange-fleshed platano isla. Here, the typical American style of banana is called a platano de seda - silk plaintain. My favorite cooking platano is the platano isla - it's very sweet when ripe, and has a firm flesh that holds together well when frying.

There are many different cooking styles for plantains - boiling, frying, baking. If you've had fried plantains in a Cuban or Puerto Rican style restaurant, you probably had tostones which are green platanos sliced in rounds, and fried, then flattened and fried again and sprinkled with salt. What is more popular here in Peru is a style called platanos maduros which is a sweet dish made of very mature plantains. You can see them in my earlier post on Arroz a la cubana.

So... the how do you cook them? Well, nothing could be simpler! All it takes is a large skillet, oil and very ripe platanos. The riper, the better - some people let them get completely black-skinned. I prefer them at the stage where they're starting to get some large black spots - I find it makes them easier to handle while frying. I use soybean oil for most of my cooking, but I'd love to try peanut or sunflower oil for this sometime.

First, peel the platanos, and cut them length-wise in planks. If the fruit is very ripe, I'll just cut it once, in half. If it's a little firmer, I'll cut it in quarters. Add enough oil to your skillet to come halfway up the slices of platano. Get the oil very hot, but not smoking and carefully put your sliced platano in. When it starts to get a little brown around the edges, flip it over - I find it easiest to do with a fork. When both sides are brown and caramalized, take them out of the pan and drain on a paper towel.













That's it! They're delicious as a side dish, especially alongside rice. But I've also found they make a delicious desert, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some manjar*.

Tip - If your fruit is very long, you may want to cut the planks in half, so you have shorter pieces to work with - makes it easier to flip while cooking.

*What is manjar? It's a thick sauce made of cream and sugar - like a very cooked down version of sweetened condensed milk - with a slightly caramel flavor.

And that's what we're eating. :)
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