Plantains. One of my favorite starchy foods! Since moving to Miami, I've been eating them a lot more often. All the grocery stores sell them -- even the little mom and pop markets. And they're cheap! Around $0.59-0.99/pound. You can also find the on the menu at a majority of restaurants in town. Unfortunately, though, pretty much all of those restaurants are going to be frying their plantains in unhealthy rancid omega-6 vegetable oils. Luckily, cooking plantains at home in a healthy cooking fat is super fast and easy. This post will teach you how to cook Plátanos Maduros (just "maduros" for short), which are made from ripened (black/yellow) plantains and are sweet. Tostones are twice-fried green plantains, and are savory. They're slightly more work, but worth it! I'll show you those in another post.
Why choose plantains? They have a moderate glycemic load, but also pack a fair bit of nutrition, with beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, and copper. Plantains are also high in soluble fiber, which is better than insoluble fiber for those of us with sensitive GI tracts and digestive issues.
As I mentioned, to make maduros, you need to use ripe plantains that are yellow and black. Plantains are not like bananas; a perfect plantain for maduros will look like a banana you probably would want to throw out for being overripe. You can use plantains that are nearly completely black for maduros, and they will turn out just fine.
Peeling a plantain is different than peeling a banana. If you try to peel them like a banana, you'll just get frustrated and make a mess. You have to use a knife. The trick is to cut the tip of both ends off....
....and then cut a slit down the length of the plantain on one or two sides.
Then you'll be able to easily slip the peel off.
Next, you want to cut your plantain into evenly-sized pieces. I prefer to cut on the bias (at a 45 degree angle) or cut the whole plantain radially (straight across) into thirds or fourths and then cut each of those pieces in half lengthwise.
My favorite cooking fat for maduros is coconut oil. It's a match made in heaven! You could also use palm shortening or lard. But seriously, you need to try them with coconut oil -- you'll never want to use another fat! You'll want to have a generous amount of oil in your pan -- I'd estimate about 1/8" deep. I prefer to have less oil in the pan starting out and to add a little bit as I cook, instead of starting out with too much oil and wasting it in the end.
Your slices should sizzle and bubble a bit when you place them in the oil -- that's how you know it is hot enough. I set my burner to medium-low for a few minutes to achieve the right temperature. Remember --- you never want your cooking oil to smoke! Add your slices to the pan and let them cook a few minutes on side A. My preferred way of cooking maduros: cook on side A until you can easily flip over...
...then cook on side B a few minutes and flip again...
......let side A cook until nice and browned and flip one more time....
...this gives side B a chance to brown evenly with side A, and then you're ready to serve!
Plátanos Maduros are a great complement to any meat dish, and are an excellent healthy starch to add to your diet. Depending on where you live, though, they can be hard to find or be kind of expensive. Ethnic markets, particularly Latin American-oriented, can be your best bet for finding them at a reasonable price. Sometimes, stores will only sell green plantains; you can always buy them green and then let them ripen at home over a couple of days to make them perfect for maduros.
Happy eating! Let me know how your platanos maduros turn out :-)