Friday, June 04, 2010

A Taste of the Caribbean

My ex-husband and father of my son is Puerto Rican. He lives in a little town in the northwest part of the island called Quebradillas. When we were married, I learned to make all sorts of Puerto Rican dishes, but this one is probably my favorite. It's called Tostones (pronounced toes-tone-as) which literally translates to stones in English. Basically, it's just fried plantain. You can not eat plantain raw like you can a banana. You have to cook it to get rid of the naturally occurring acid the fruit produces. Otherwise, you will burn your little mouth.

This is a plantain. The bottom one that you see there. Yeah, that one. That's the plantain. The top one is a somewhat largish banana. Ideally, when making Tostones, you want your plantain to be green (unripe), because as they ripen they sweeten and Tostones are traditionally a savory, potato chipy, kind of snack/side dish. However, I went to three stores before I even found plantains here in Springfield, MO, so I wasn't going to be picky about the ripeness of my plantain.

You can't really peel a plantain like a banana, especially if it's a green one. You're going to have to use a knife to get the peel off. You just need to make a shallow cut through the skin down the entire length of the plantain, and then wiggle the fruit out of its wrapper.

Cut the plantain into 3/4 to 1 inch slices. You want them this thick, because in a minute we are going to smash them flat as a pancake and if you slice them too thin things just won't work out properly. Trust me on this.

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat and fry your plantain slices until golden.

This is a proper plantain smasher. That's what I call it, I'm not sure what the official name for it is, but plantain smasher works for me. I purchased this one in Puerto Rico. Surely, someone, somewhere in the United States sells these, but I'm not sure. If you don't have one, just use the bottom of a glass to smash your plantains.

Move your golden, fried plantain slices to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Then you put a single slice into the plantain smasher

And SMASH! This is my son's favorite part.

Now you have a flat plantain. It's almost a Tostone, but not quite.

To turn it into a full fledged Tostone, you have to fry it again. Fry it for about three to four minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy on the outside, but still a bit soft on the inside.

Drain on a paper towel lined plate again and add whatever seasonings your creativity allows. We just went with your basic light salting. Since our plantain was yellow instead of green, our Tostones had a slight sweetness to them. If you go traditional and use a green plantain, your Tostones won't be sweet. They will have more of a potato type flavor. I almost didn't get a picture of the finished product, because the Tostones were being eaten almost as fast as they were being taken out of the hot oil. Notice the half-eaten one on the bottom left.

Seriously, Son, you need to at least wait until they've cooled off a bit. Oh, and um, cut your fingernails.


Deanna said...

we made these a few months ago as part of our Spanish curriculum. The reviews were....mixed. :-)

Marti said...

Neither one of us liked them the first time we tried them, but they kinda grow on you. I think I prefer them sweet.