I am not a big fan of fried foods, and was having a hard time coming up with something for this month. But, I've recently been playing with plantains and remembered one of my favorite dishes in Costa Rica - patacones! Double-fried green plantains with guacamole and black beans, patacones are a delicious reminder of the tropics.
I knew the basics - peel, slice green plantains, fry the round bits then mash them and fry again. I have to admit, I do not have a thermometer for oil and only have olive oil in my house, so I just eyeballed everything. I also made guacamole and refried balck beans (alas, no sour cream in our house).
2 large green plantains, peeled and sliced into 1" rounds
1 skillet full of olive oil
heavy pot (for squishing)
Guacamole and Refried Beans:
1 small onion, diced fine
1 small tomato, diced
juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 jalapeno (green part diced)
1 can black beans
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp ground cumin
I started the beans first: sauteed the onions and a dash of the jalapeno, added the beans (drained), then mashed. Then I added about 1 tsp of cumin (to taste, really) and a pinch of the diced tomato and let that all warm up and bubble.
Next, I poured some olive oil into a cast-iron skillet and turned
the heat to med-high. I do not have a thermometer, so I just eyeballed
when I thought the oil was hot enough.
While the oil was heating up, I sliced and peeled the plantains. They are pretty tough and a knife was necessary for proper peeling.
When the oil looked nice and hot, I plunked the plantain chunks in and watched them bubble:
Next, I set up my mashing apparatus. I have a cast iron sautee pan - it's very heavy and I never really had a good use for it until now. Coupled the pan with two pieces of parchment paper, and I was ready to smoosh.
My first batch was a bit over cooked because I waited until the plantains were pretty brown before taking them out for smashing. They tasted o.k. but there was a slight burnt flavor. I learned that it's best to let them fry for about 2 minutes on each side (turning golden NOT brown). Then, using salad tongs (I do not have proper tongs nor do I have a fry basket, but these worked great), I carefully picked out the golden plantain chunks and placed them on the bottom layer of parchment paper (BTW - the parchment paper is on a cookie sheet for mobility and hard surface). Then I placed the second parchment paper on top, and mashed - it was really quite satisfying!(see in the first image the browness - try to avoid that and get something that looks more like the pieces in the third image).
I have since learned from a Belizean friend that this is the time to season. So next time I am going to sprinkle some spices on top of the pieces before they are smashed. It turned out fine without added salt, but that would have added a nice dimension.
Once the plantains were smashed, it was time to put them back in the oil. As this was a learning experience, I discovered that they sink at first:
Then, as they cook, they rise to the top and that's pretty much when you take them out. I guess it depends on how golden you like them, but I found that the second frying took less than 2 minutes.
When they were done, I removed the patacones from the oil and put them on a couple of paper towels to drain. While they were draining, I whipped up my guacamole (smashed avocado, chunked tomato, diced onion, lemon juice, dash of salt), and took the beans off the stove, then placed all items in pretty bowls:
We've always had patacones that were served already assembled, so that's how I presented them, but as we ate, we just started dipping them into the beans a guacamole. Sour cream would have added a nice creamy texture and flavor, but the guacamole and beans were really good and it hit the spot!
Baby's dish on the left, adult dish on the right. These were delicious!!! Sedge enjoyed his completely, and Stef and I ate every single bite. The over cooked ones were crispy but, as I said earlier, had a slight burnt taste (which was mostly masked by the toppings), but my other batches turned out golden, flaky, and absolutely delicious!
This was a really fun challenge because, as much as we LOVE patacones, I never would have had the courage or motivation to make them at home. I will probably do these again and again. My next challenge is to make them in cup-shape, which is the way we first had them in Costa Rica.
(Ahhh...beans and guacamole all over the place!)