As I’ve mentioned before, I worked as a teacher for several years in the southern State of Tabasco, five of which were spent in an area known as “La Chontalpa”. It is a place that is filled with abundant vegetation, and remains green all year long. The two main crops of the region are cocoa beans and bananas, although the bananas are a lot more obvious. Banana trees are everywhere, and some roads are lined with them for several miles. Many other states produce bananas, like Chiapas, Veracruz, and Guerrero, but Tabasco was where I saw how people used it in their everyday meals. Many home cooks will serve their main meal at noon along with a side of rice and fried plantains. But the creativity of cooks doesn’t consist of just fried plantains, there are dozens of dishes ranging from sweet to savory that use plantains as their main ingredient.
There are several varieties of bananas that come in many shapes and sizes, and vary in flavor. Mexico mainly produces 8 varieties: Dominico, Tabasco, Manzano, Enano, Gigante, Morado, Pera, and Macho. Macho bananas (Plantains) are the largest of them all. Fried Plantains (Plátanos Fritos) are very popular all over the costal areas, and are usually served as a side dish with white rice. Bananas that are riper are served as a dessert covered with cream and cheese or with condensed milk. They are also found baked or grilled, as you can see in this post that I wrote some years ago. My grandmother used to toss the unpeeled bananas in the burning coals in the fire and they would slowly cook to be then served as our breakfast in a bowl of warm raw milk.HOW TO PICK A PLANTAIN FOR FRYING:
I. To prepare plantains as a dessert, you need to let your bananas ripen until they look black, like the ones in the picture above. The longer you wait for them to ripen, the sweeter they will be. I prefer to cook these type of bananas whole, or sliced lengthwise in 2 pieces.
II. Now, if you want fry the bananas in slices for a side dish, their skin has to have some browns spots, and they should not be to tough when gently pressed. If they feel too soft or mushy to the touch, it’s better to use them for dessert. Their pulp will be too soft to slice, making it hard to fry.
FRYING THE BANANAS:
EACH PLANTAIN RENDERS 2 SERVINGS
- 2 plantains, ripened
- 2 plantains with brown spots
- 1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Mexican Cream or Sour Cream per each plantain
- 2 Tablespoons of Mexican Queso Fresco or Panela, crumbled (You can substitute with feta or other crumbled cheeses)
- 1 Tablespoon of Condensed Milk per each plantain
Other topping choices are rompope (the Mexican eggnog) and dulce de leche.
1. First cut the tips of the banana with a sharp knife, then make a slit alongside the plantain from top to bottom and remove the peel. This step is for whole fried bananas or sliced.
2. Slice plantain diagonally. As you can see, the top two pictures show a very ripened banana, and in the two pictures at the bottom is a firmer banana that will hold better when slicing.
3. Heat oil in a large nonstick frying pan over a medium high heat. Wait until the oil is hot, but not smoking, and add the bananas. Fry the small slices for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove and place in a plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess fat.
4. Whole fried plantains will take longer to cook. Gentle turn them to make sure that every side is cooked completely. They will take about 15-18 minutes to cook. After they've been fried, remove and place on a plate covered with paper towels.
Sliced plantains will take less time to cook than whole plantains, so remove promptly. They will be extremely hot, so be careful and let them cool for some minutes before eating. They make a great side dish for a Mexican brunch, served alongside fried black beans, enchiladas, entomatadas, white rice, or also as a dessert.
When cooking whole plantains or larger pieces, turn heat to medium to avoid burning them.
5. To serve the whole plantains, cut a slit lengthwise in the center. Garnish with your toppings of choice. Here, I added cream and crumbled cheese to one and condensed milk to another.
¡Buen provecho! If you get the chance to make them, please come back to let me know if you liked them!
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