Doesn’t it seem as though the prettiest or most fun beaches always have the most delicious food close by? Beach food. Pick-up food. And it’s almost always hideously bad for you. But something about being in the hot sun, maybe under a thatched shack…a fruity rum drink or a cold beer in your hand makes it natural to throw caution to the wind and start ordering. Some sort of scalding hot, deep-fried, savory bit blanketed in a crispy, salty outside which will transport you to paradise with every single bite. Puerto Rico is no exception. The beaches are exquisite, some known for surfing others for sunning but all tempt with the king of naughty…hot fat. All manner of delectable morsels are fried to a golden perfection on those beaches; some amiably co-mingling with garlic or onion and cornmeal while some are happy to be fried naked with no breading what so ever. One of our favorite treats are fried, green plantains, Tostones. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside these yellow speckled rounds are perfect with an icy beer or cold rum drink. They’re served in wax paper triangles, sometimes with a garlic and olive oil sauce drizzled lightly. Perfect for a hot, lazy day in the sun! Every now and again my grandmother would make them for us. Not often enough so tostones were a real treat. And reason enough for a big, family get together. Plantains must be cooked; they cannot be eaten raw. They look like bananas but they’re not. Bananas are high in sugar whereas plantains are high in starch. There are hundreds of recipes for plantains but, typically, three stages of ripeness will determine how they are prepared. For good tostones you want hard, deep green plantains. As they ripen plantains will begin to turn yellow and that is perfect for frying and serving as a side. As they darken and ripen they turn black. Don’t throw them out! At that stage the plantains are at their sweetest and are wonderful as dessert baked in butter, sugar and rum served hot over melting vanilla ice cream. The plantain is truly your friend.
Fried Plantains or Tostones
- 4 large, dark green plantains
- vegetable for frying
- small bowl of water with 2-3 mashed up garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Cut about 1″ off each end of the plantain. Cut the plantain from end to end cutting only through the skin.
- Work your finger under the skin and pull the skin away from the plantain working from top to bottom. The plantain will stain your fingers. I’ve heard it said of a Puerto Rican newly arrived to the States, “She still has the stain of plantains” meaning she’s country or a hillbilly…”una jibara”.
- In a deep-frying pan heat 2″ of vegetable oil to 350° of medium high. Cut the plantain into 1″ pieces or, if you want larger tostones, cut into 2″ pieces.
- Add them to the hot oil and fry until they are just starting to turn golden, about 5-6 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Leave the oil as you’ll be using it again.
- Place one piece of plantain on your counter and using a small plate, bowl or small pan press down firmly on the piece of plantain. Continue with all.
- Bring your frying pan back up to medium high.
- Lightly dip each tostone into the salted garlic water and quickly but carefully return the smashed tostones to the hot frying pan. Don’t leave the tostones long in the water or they’ll fall apart. Just a quick dip is all they need.
- Fry the tostones again until they turn a rich, golden brown, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Immediately sprinkle with sea salt and serve.