What are plantains or plátanos? Well, they are not bananas for starters. Bananas are guineos and in some countries they call plátanos the bananas, but not in Puerto Rico. I wouldn’t eat a plantain like a banana when it is ripe or yellow. The green plantains are as versatile as potatoes. Unfortunately, I keep seeing plantains going bad at the stores. I sometimes feel like giving the pastelón recipe to the deli so they can cook some with those plantains. Hence, today’s post is about plantains, just the basics.
To give you an idea, if you can do it with potatoes, you can do it with green plantains. Fries are probably the first thing people think about when they think about potatoes so tostones is the equivalent for plantains. Unless, you want to get literal and julienne slice the plantains like fries. If you do, just put them in the oven or fry them like fries.
Back to tostones…
- Buy the greenest and hardest plantains you can find at the store. This may seem like an easy task but the plantains in the US travel from Central America so by the time you buy them, they are a bit pintos or not super green. My mom points this out almost every time she comes to visit; how she can’t find green plantains at the store. While the taste of the plantains I find here is not as fresh as the ones in Puerto Rico (PR), I love plantains and get them any way I can.
- Peel the plantains. If you don’t know how to peel the plantains, it’s easy. Wash the plantains and your hands. With a good knife, cut the tips of the plantains, make a top to bottom cut of the plantains’ outer shell not too deep, just as deep as the outer shell goes. You can see how deep the outer shell or cáscara is once you cut the tips of the plantains. Once the line is done, you can wedge the knife there and start removing the peel without cutting the actual plantains.
- Once the plantain is free of the cáscara, cut the plantain in cylinders about ¾ to a 1” tall and put in a bowl with water and salt or Adobo Goya.
- Use a thick bottomed skillet or pot, add about ¼ to ½” of your preferred frying oil, and heat it up to medium.
- Carefully add the plantains to the skillet and let them cook for about 5 to 8 minutes before flipping them. The wet plantains will splatter at first. I sometimes use the lid to cover the top of the skillet a bit while I add the plantains with a big spoon. Yup, I am a frying oil scary cat. My dad burnt his hand once with hot oil so I am extremely careful. You can cover the frying plantains or not. I prefer to cover them for a few minutes so they cook throughout.
- With a fork, check the plantains to see if they are kind of hard on the top and not sticky. That’s what I do to check they are done for this stage. If they stick to the skillet or to the fork, I leave them a bit more. They should be ready when they are a golden yellow, bit regular mustard color.
- Get the plantain cylinders out of the pot and place them to drain on a plate with a napkin (just my preference).
- Get a tostonera or a small heavy bottomed saucepan and a sheet of aluminum foil (waxed paper works just as good), fold the aluminum foil sheet in half.
- Place the plantain cylinder inside the aluminum sheet and press down with the saucepan or place the plantain cylinder inside the tostonera and press down. The tostonera has the advantage of a set thickness. The saucepan needs a bit of calibration. If you press down too much, you will have super thin tostones later on. If you don’t press hard enough, they end up too thick. I prefer thin to thick, but everybody is different. Aim to about ¼” thickness whenever possible.
- Once the plantains are flat, wash them in the salted water from step 3. and place them back in the oil to fry a second time.
- Just like before, the check if the tostones don’t stick to the bottom and they are crispy on the outside or hard when tapped with the fork, they are done. Once they are done, take them out and place them on the plate.
- Once your tostones are done, feel free to sprinkle with salt or Adobo Goya. If you want to try other seasonings, go for it. Enjoy them!
I do have one word for all those eating tostones for the first time, mayo-ketchup. It’s exactly that. Mayonnaise with Ketchup and bit of salt or adobo, my favorite mayo-ketchup is sold at El Meson in Puerto Rico. Goya sells it, but I usually do my own by eyeballing the mix with more ketchup than mayonnaise. For those with more experience, the spicy red sauce goes great with tostones. This salsa is basically 1 to 3 garlic cloves mashed with salt in a mortar or pilón, mixed with ½ cup tomato sauce, ¼ cup ketchup, and about ¼ cup oil. I don’t like to add too much ketchup or oil and usually eyeball the measurements so feel free to play with them until you find your preferred spot. My mom adds a bit of sugar to kill the acidity of the tomato sauce, but I do not add sugar.
I will share more plantain recipes the next few posts with high hopes that I won’t see plantains going to waste at the stores anymore.