I was going to talk about Cuban plantains today, and I will, in a minute. But first, here, in his own words, is how Jay Kristoff went from considering hiring a freelance editor to figure out why no-one wanted his steam punk fantasy (Steamdancer) to having three (count ’em, three) publishing houses fighting over his book-to-be.
After all of that, plantains seem somehow less exotic. But I promised, so here’s my recipe for how to cook them.
First of all, the plantain is one of those misleading fruits that may not even be a fruit. It’s called a ‘banana-vegetable.’ It looks like a fruit and acts like a fruit but until it gets almost disgustingly black and soft and ready to be tossed out, it doesn’t actually taste like a fruit. No, it tastes like a potato. Which means it is one of the few fruits that can go either way.
(This reminds me of an old gal named Nelly who was in her sixties of seventies when I met her in Delbert, Nova Scotia in the early 1970s. According to Mr. Barnhill, who owned the grocery store we used to hang out at, Nelly walked in one day and bought a great big bunch of bananas. Mr. Barnhill asked her what she was going to do with all those bananas. Her reply? She was going to eat the small ones.).
If you want to serve the plantain as a vegetable, you have to cook it before it ripens. That’s right: find one that’s green and hard.
Peel it (not easy, it’s like peeling a turnip: these things are tough). Then slice it into rounds that are maybe 1/3- 1/2″ thick. Put some oil in a frypan and saute the sliced plaintain until it turns golden-brown. Then flatten each one with the bottom of a glass — really push down hard — and you’ll see the plantain flatten into rounds, releasing the starch. Turn it over and do the same thing with the other side.
What you end up with tastes just like hashbrowns only different. I’d say one plantain per person, depending on their size (that of the plantain and the person eating it), is about right.
Havana, the new Cuban restaurant in Ottawa, sliced its plantains into strips lengthwise and fried them until they were golden brown. They used them in place of crackers, topped with cream cheese, chopped red onion and cilantro. (My God, they were good.) In another presentation, they topped them with red pepper jelly, cream cheese and jerked pork. Really, truly delectable.
For their fruit incarnation, you let plantains ripen until they’re almost black and then peel them, cook them in butter and a little sugar or honey until they carmelize. Serve them warm or hot with ice cream. Super good.
Check out Penguin Canada’s book trailer for The Beggar’s Opera here! It’s pretty cool!