Monday, January 31, 2011

plantain chips--baked not fried!

Plantains are a beloved dietary staple here that I have often felt indifferent to.   When you drive into the interior from the city, you pass truck after truck loaded with plantains.  The can be eaten at every meal, and are usually fried.  At their worst they can be pasty and dull and at their best crispy and delicious. A plate of fresh fried patacones, (fried green plantain) with a whole fried fish, eaten by the ocean, can be heaven.  But the patacones have to be fresh out of the oil, and they have to be pressed as thin as possible for the second frying, (yeah, they are fried twice).  Some of my favourite meals here in Panama have been fried fish and fried plantain (corvina frita con patacones) with loads of homemade hot sauce (scotch bonnet is the chile of choice here); spicy, greasy, salty perfection.  I rarely make them at home (the fried twice thing puts me off, and it's harder than you'd think getting them flattened thin enough).
I like plantains added to chicken soup and in any kind vegetable stew.  When they are ripe they are really good with lentils.  In Costa Rica I learned a great preparation for ripe plantains: cut in half length-wise and sauteed in a little oil and then finished with some white cheese under the broiler.  The only plantain dish that I really dislike is "Platanos en Tentacion;"  it's a sweet desert preparation that I assume is an acquired taste ( and is really no 'temptation' to me).  Lately we’ve been making green plantains into oven chips.
You have cut the peel off green plantain.  It's a starchy job.

We peeled eight small plantains.  To make chips you need fine slices.  You could use a mandolin, I use the food processor's slicing blade.

When all the plantains are sliced, put them in a bowl and add spices, salt to taste, and olive oil.  I use a mix of cumin and smoked paprika.  I'm planning to try lime and chile powder next time.  

Make sure the plantains are evenly coated with the oil and spices.  spread the plantains out on a cookie sheet.

Bake the plantain chips at 400° F.  Stir them and check them frequently.  They should start to be looking done in twenty minutes and really done in half an hour.  They are best nice and crunchy.

We gobble them up out of the oven; but they are pretty good cold too.

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