Start to Finish: 10 minutes
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Making Mexican fried bananas -- variously called either platanos maduros, ripe plantains, or platanos fritos, fried plantains, is easy as can be. The trick to mouthwatering caramelized plantains -- and this will be your only hurdle to a sensational result -- is knowing how long to let the plantains ripen before putting this dish together. Larger cousins of the sweet, yellow-skinned banana -- which isn't suitable as a substitute for this recipe -- starchier plantains need to be cooked before consuming. Platanos maduros are mainly popular in the Mexican states of Chiapas, Veracruz, Tabasco and Oaxaca.
2 or 3 plantains
1 cup vegetable oil
Waiting for Plantain Perfection
Look for plantains at your grocery, corner store or bodega with skins that have moved along from from green or mainly yellow, to about 80 percent black. You may be able to find medium-ripe -- yellow with a few black spots -- and super-ripe plantains -- mostly black -- in separate bins or boxes.
Take home the available plantains with the most black spots, short of being disintegrating. If you can only find yellow or green plantains, set them out at room temperature and wait. Even with yellow-black plantains, let them sit for a day or two until they look not only largely spotted but also feel soft. If they feel firm like a potato, they will be too starchy to come out well.
When the flesh under the skin begins to yield -- you can tell by gently squeezing them -- so that they are close to the yielding sensation in the mouth when you eat platanos at a Mexican (or Cuban or Peruvian) joint, they are ready. Cooking softens them only slightly.
Slicing the Plantains
Peel the plantain by running your knife the long way along the top arc and bottom concavity of the fruit, and then peel off each half of the skin. For dessert, Mexican style fried bananas can be peeled and then sliced in half the long way. (ref #3, 1:30) For a side dish, you can cut them how you want -- sharply angled diagonal cuts about 1/2 inch apart, yielding slices about 2 1/2 or 3 inches long, cook well and look attractive.
Pour a cup of vegetable oil into small or medium-sized frying pan. Turn the heat on medium. Set up a strainer and tongs near your stove top while the oil warms, as well as paper towels on a cutting board. Carefully lower each sliced plantain into the oil with tongs so it doesn't splatter. Turn the slices gently while they fry until they turn a rich, dark reddish-brown; this may take as little as 30 seconds if the oil is sizzling hot, or as long as 4 minutes if the oil is on the cooler side.
Place each fully caramelized, reddish-brown slice in a mesh strainer held above the frypan, and let the oil drain back into the frying pan. After it drains, place each slice on paper towels. Serve immediately with main and side dishes such as roast chicken and rice. For a dessert presentation, drizzle condensed milk on the slices.
- Photo Credit Richard Gunion/iStock/Getty Images
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