Perhaps you have wondered about plantains. You’ve probably see them in the produce department looking a lot, but not exactly, like a banana. They can be mostly yellow or nearly black. They are edible at all stages, but the blacker the skin and the softer the flesh, the sweeter they are. The biggest difference between a banana and a plantain is that a plantain must be cooked before eating. Also, plantains don’t get that strong, strong flavor that bananas get when very ripe.
To eat them “green” cut them into big chunks leaving the skin on. Cover with water and boil them till very soft when pierced. Then remove from water and peel the chunks. They will be very starchy and can be prepared like mashed potatoes. But mostly they are fried to become tostones. To make tostones, slice about 1/2″ thick and fry briefly in butter or vegetable oil. Salt lightly and use as a snack or a savory side dish for Mexican foods.
Tostones are good. But by letting plantains ripen, they can be used for a sweet side dish or even a dessert. To me, it’s worth the wait for the ripening to be complete. This can take up to three weeks. Here are the plantains I bought in Kroger on January 7th, and the same plantains again when they were ripe two weeks later.
They can be difficult to peel. First cut off the ends. Use a paring knife to slit through the skin in about 4 long cuts, and remove the peel in strips. Slice the plantain any way you like and fry gently in butter. I cut mine in halfs, but they will cook more uniformly if you cut them in regular slices. Keep the heat low, and let them carmelize. They will turn from a pinkish yellow to a lovely brilliant yellow with the golden brown carmelized areas on the surface. These are delicious. Some other day I will tell you how to use these in a very unique meatloaf popular in Puerto Rico. Here are a few more pictures of the preparation of fried sweet plantains. Try them the next time you’re serving Mexican food!—mimi