Much like sweet potatoes, plantains are an intriguing sweet-savory alternative to white potatoes, especially when you make homemade chips. Look for under-ripened, green or greenish-yellow plantains for your chip making. Fully ripened plantains, which are dark-spotted or black, are better suited for mashed dishes. When you're making chips, look for green to yellow, less ripe plantains so that the slices will hold up better to baking, frying or dehydrating.
Unlike bananas, which they resemble, plantains are difficult to peel by hand. Use a knife to chop off the two ends before cutting into the peel lengthwise. Now you can pull away the remaining peel from the plantain by hand or use a paring knife. You may cut the chips by slicing the plantain crosswise or lengthwise, but thinness is the key. A mandolin is invaluable to achieve thin, uniform pieces that are no thicker than 3/8 inch.
Use a heavy-bottomed pan to fry plantain slices and enough vegetable oil to cover the pan's surface to a depth of 1 inch. Use a deep-fry thermometer to determine when the oil reached 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit over medium-high heat. Don't overcrowd the pan after you drop the slices into the oil, so cook the chips in batches. Turn them over a few times during the frying process, and transfer them to drain on paper towels when they are golden brown. Season them with salt and pepper.
For baked plantain chips, start with thinly sliced pieces that have been cut lengthwise, then halved across the center, or across. To oil and season the chips, toss them gently in a bowl with the flavorings. Two spoonfuls of olive oil is enough to coat slices from two plantains. Stick to salt and pepper for seasoning, or spice them with cumin and chili powder. After setting the slices in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet, set them in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes, turning them halfway through.
For "raw food" enthusiasts and other dehydrator devotees, plantain chips add variety to your dried-food snack repertoire. Start with peeled, thinly sliced plantain rounds. Dehydrated foods benefit from an acidic coating to prevent browning and spoilage during the drying and storage process, so spray the plantain rounds on both sides with lemon juice before placing them on the dehydrator tray. They'll become chip-like in about 12 hours at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove them from the trays when you can break them in half, indicating that all moisture is gone.
The oil content of baked and fried plantain chips makes long-term storage impractical. Instead, store any leftovers for a day or two in an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag, after they have completely cooled. Re-crisp them on a low oven before serving. For dehydrated chips, an airtight container or freezer bag will help them stay fresh longer. If you are preparing them for long-term storage, use bags that can be vacuum-sealed and enclosed in larger Mylar bags.