And then nostalgia hit. I might have mentioned it here on the blog once or twice, but I have virtually no connection to my Latin roots. My mother was Caucasian, and my father hailed from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Our father was never around growing up, although he lived in the same city and we would visit his family on occasion. So we were never indoctrinated into the traditional Dominican culture that thrives in northern Manhattan, the western South Bronx, and a large neighborhood in Queens. Our cultural cues came from our mother and, later, her mother and her sister. Which meant we grew up with fried chicken and apple pie, corn on the cob and potato salad (among many other staple Americana dishes). However, my mother did try to assimilate herself into the local Latin American culture here in New York. She spoke fluent Spanish as a second language, and her friends were all Latina. So occasionally she would prepare more traditional Latin-Caribbean dishes which her friends and mother-in-law taught her to make. Us kids hated it. We preferred our hamburgers and sloppy joes, thank you very much.
However, one particular Latin staple we did enjoy was fried green plantains. In Spanish-speaking Caribbean cultures, the dish is known as "tostones." In most Central and South American countries, they are called "patacones." But in my household we simply called them "platanos," regardless of how the plantains were being prepared. However, I do recall my sweet Dominican grandmother calling them "fritas verdes" on occasion. Tostones are typically twice-fried and served as a side dish. Although many people eat them as snacks or, even, as a full meal. I'm guilty of the latter, actually.
The thing is, it's been years since I've had tostones. Well over two decades, in fact! And I've never made them myself. All I had to go on were memories of standing in the kitchen as my mother cooked, which means I had to have been all of 7 or 8 years old at the time. Wow! Still, I'd seen it done often enough, and tostones are actually ridiculously simple to make. And luckily for me, I still live in a part of the city that's home to a pretty sizable Hispanic population. So plantains are more plentiful in the markets here than bananas. They are sold 10 for 1 dollar, in fact. Sometimes cheaper.
Suddenly thinking about my childhood, and about the different ways of making plantains--be they green or yellow (aka, "maduros")--I developed a huge craving for them. It was the weirdest thing, but my body immediately wanted some tostones in the worst way imaginable! So, I decided to give it a try. I thought it would be neat to travel back to my childhood and prepare a dish reminding me of home and my mother, and even my father's family. And as a bonus, perhaps banish some more of that new paint smell to boot!
I went to the supermarket this week and purchased myself all the necessary ingredients for making yummy tostones: plantains, corn oil (I usually only keep olive oil in the house), and a trusty tostonera--that ubiquitous hinged instrument of tostones making consisting of two wooden slabs for which to smash sliced pieces of plantain between. My mother just used a heavy pan with foil on the bottom to flatten each piece atop a cutting board, but I decided to get a little fancy with my bad self!
|Since I'm only one person expecting leftovers to spare, |
I figured 4 plantains were enough for the task.
|With a knife, make a shallow slit lengthwise down the |
plantain, then gently peel apart with your thumb.
|Cut width-wise into 1- to 2-inch thick pieces.|
|Fry until darker yellow in pre-heated corn or vegetable oil |
over medium heat. Turn over pieces for even frying.
|Place on paper towels and pat dry the oil away.|
|Flatten each piece with a hard, flat surface. Or use a trusty |
|Slide flattened pieces back into the oil and fry on each side until |
golden brown and crispy.
|Place twice-fried pieces on new paper towels for drying, then |
sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve immediately while still hot.
The end result was a little over-fried I admit, but still tasted exactly as I remembered them. Oh, the memories! Next time I'll fry them for a little less time. I couldn't think of what main dish to have alongside the tostones, though, so I ended up eating them alone. Was quite filling, in fact. And oh-so-delicious! I had around 11 pieces left over when all was said and done, so I wrapped them up in foil and placed them in the refrigerator for another day. They're best served piping hot and straight out of the pan, but I'll reheat them in the oven at 350 degrees F and they should be fine. I hope. *gulp*
Oh, and the house smells a little less painty and more like corn oil and plantains now, which is quite the improvement I say.
Anyway, have you had tostones, or patacones, or whatever you call them in your neck of the woods? You might want to give this recipe a try if you're curious otherwise. And as usual, share your thoughts in the comments below.