Monday, June 17, 2013

Platanos Maduros: Fried Ripe (Sweet) Plantains

Fried sweet ripe plantains are enjoyed throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Their candy-like sweetness and melt-in-your-mouth texture can only be achieved, however, if you buy very ripe plantains with skin that is almost completely black. Perfectly ripe plantains will look like very large rotten bananas. They should also yield somewhat when you press them gently, but not so much that they feel squishy. If your plantains are not fully ripe, they'll lack that ambrosial sweetness that makes even the most disciplined, health-conscious fried-food-avoider ask for seconds or thirds, and even steal that last lonely plantain off your plate when you're not looking.

If the only plantains available at your grocery store or market are unripe and green, or yellow with brown or black splotches, don't despair. You can ripen those green or semi-ripe (pintón) plantains by placing them in a brown paper bag and leaving in a warm spot in your kitchen for several days until they soften and turn black. That same method can also be used to ripen an avocado. Don't forget to check them every other day or so, and once they're fully ripe I recommend cooking them within two or three days.

The following instructions are how my Mom, who is from Cuba, taught me to fry platanos maduros.  All you need are one or more ripe plantains (plan on 1 large ripe plantain per 2 or 3 people) and a mildly-flavored high-smoke-point oil for frying, e.g., canola, corn or vegetable oil. Although peanut oil has a very high smoke point, I don't recommend using it because of its distinctive flavor. And, of course, you need a large, heavy frying pan or skillet - I recommend cast iron because of its ability to hold the oil at a steady high temperature. If you have a splatter screen, you may also want to to have that handy.
Cuban steak dinner with Platanos maduros fried plantains
Fried sweet plantains are best when served piping-hot and fresh from the fryer, traditionally served with meat dishes or as a snack. I've heard that they aren't very good the next day, but this is merely a rumor as I've never confirmed the existence of day-old or leftover platanos maduros.

1. Pour about an inch of oil into the skillet and heat to very hot over medium-high heat.

2. While the oil is heating, use a sharp knife to trim the ends of the plantains. Peel by making one or more small vertical cut through the thick peel around the top of the plantain and then removing the skin as you would with a banana.

3. Cut the plantain on the bias, i.e., into diagonal slices, about 1/4" thick. Work with care because a very ripe plantain is soft and slippery. You can place the cut slices on a plate until the oil is hot enough for frying.

4. You'll know the oil is ready when it bubbles & sizzles robustly as you slide a plantain into it -- I use the smallest pieces sliced at the ends of the plantain to test the heat of the oil. When the oil is ready, slide the rest of the plantain slices into the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the skillet -- there should be enough room between the sizzling slices for you to be able to use a long-handled fork (preferably with a heat-resistant handle) or slotted spatula to flip them over. You may have to cook in batches, keeping the cooked plantains warm on a plate in the oven or at the back of the stove.

Frying ripe plantains

5. Fry the plantains until the side that's in the oil is golden-brown -- this takes a few minutes -- then flip to fry the other side (the second side might take a little more or less time to fry).

frying platanos maduros

6. While the plantains are frying, cover a large plate or platter with a couple of paper towels. Transfer the cooked plantains to the plate to drain on the paper towels -- if cooking in batches, place them in a warm oven or at the back of the stove to keep warm. Serve as soon as possible.

Do you have a favorite plantain recipe? Please let us know in a comment below.

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

PS: Are you interested in Cuban food and looking for other recipes to try? Visit my Cuban Recipes board on Pinterest, or search this blog for Cuban recipes -- you'll find quite a few! If there's a specific Cuban recipe you'd like and you can't find it, just email me or leave a comment below and I'll be happy to help.

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