Sunday, May 2, 2010

Caramelized Plantains

I have been to Negril, Jamaica twice and was enchanted by the mornings there. The Caribbean sea was completely placid and turquoise, there were few people along the beaches, and I loved the tropical breakfasts we would eat each day. While sitting in the sun we would be brought plates of sliced mangoes and papayas, banana pancakes, and the Jamaican Island Breakfast consisting of saltfish & ackee, callaloo, plantains, and johnnycakes.

I developed a particular fondness for the plantains and would get a side of them each morning. Less sweet and more starchy than a banana, the plantains cooked up golden and crusty on the outside but tender and almost creamy on the inside. I have been making them at home ever since and have developed my own method and seasoning mixture that replicates what I ate in Jamaica quite nicely. I love the addition of the ground chipotle pepper because of the hint of smoke and spice it contributes.

When you buy a plantain at the store, don't buy one that is nearly black for the flesh will be too soft and won't cook up properly. You want one mainly yellow, with some black. If it's all yellow, just let it sit around on your counter for a few days until it looks ready.

I think that peanut oil really needs to be used here, but if you don't have any, canola oil can be substituted. Don't cook the plantains in olive oil but if you do, keep it a secret from me because it's just wrong.

For 2-4 side dish servings:
  • 1 plantain with yellow flesh streaked with black
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • Lime wedges, for serving

With a knife, cut off the peel from one end of the plantain. Remove the peel and slice it into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, salt and chipotle pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet (such as a cast-iron) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the plantain slices in a single layer. Using half of the sugar mixture, sprinkle each plantain slice with it. Allow to cook, without touching for 2-3 minutes until the edges are golden. With tongs, gently flip each slice and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture. Cook for 2 additional minutes, flip again and cook for 1 minute more.

Serve immediately with limes wedges on the side.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love plantains! Never thought about adding some spice to them but its quite clever. We just went to Victor's 1959 Cafe this past weekend and I got myself a big ol' side order of plantains. Yum!