They’re not sweet eating bananas nor are they plantains. They’re what Hispanics, Indians and island people call “green bananas” and they’re heavenly boiled and made into a salad or cooked with root vegetables but everyone’s favorite is the meat stuffed fritter…the alcapurria, pronounced ahl-cah-POO-ree-ah. Deep fried and savory, this is what we call “un antojo”, a little craving or whim but there is a bit of work involved to make the fritters, well worth every moment spent. In Puerto Rico alcapurrias are considered street food, found all over the island but especially at the kiosks which line the beaches. Hot out of the fat, these crunchy fritters will satisfy all and are rich enough to tide one over until the next meal. My grandmother never made these and they were never served in her house. This was before the arrival of food processors and, as I mentioned, a tad bit labor intensive. Plus the green bananas stain everything they touch once peeled, from ones fingers to cutting boards and clothing. The making of both alcapurrias and pasteles was considered blue-collar work. So although these dishes are enjoyed during feast days, holidays and beach outings, they must be ordered in advance if you aren’t willing to make them yourself. Many home businesses started with women making their own money by preparing pasteles and alcapurrias then either selling them on the street or taking orders in advance. This year I made the fritters to celebrate Three Kings Day, the sixth of January, a huge holiday in hispanic countries. Growing up, my family had Christmas in Fort Lauderdale and, the following day, flew down to Puerto Rico to really start the celebration with Mama’s family. For my older sister, Cynthia, and me those were the days of dollies, tea sets, literature and the occasional treat of an alcapurria. Feliz Dia de Los Tres Reyes Magos!
1 medium onion, about 3 ounces, peeled and roughly chopped
3 sweet chile peppers, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon oregano
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 packet Sazon seasoning, found in the hispanic section of your grocery store
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons green olives stuffed with pimento, roughly chopped
1 pound ground beef
Place all the above ingredients except the capers, olives and ground beef in a food processor and pulse until a chunky paste is formed.
Add the ground beef and pulse until ingredients are completely incorporated.
To a large skillet add the ground beef mixture, the capers and olives and brown over medium heat. Stir while cooking to mix in the capers and olives.
When the meat is completely cooked remove from heat, allow to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Green banana paste (masa):
10 green bananas, not regular eating bananas or plantains but green cooking bananas
2 pounds yautia (malanga)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 packets Sazon seasoning
Fill a large bowl halfway with tap water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Set aside.
Using rubber gloves, score each banana lengthwise three or four times. Slide your fingernail under the scored peel and remove the entire peel from the banana. Keep a small paring knife close by to help with any trouble spots.
Drop each peel banana into the salted water and continued until all bananas have been peeled.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the yautia, rinse under tap water and cut into chunks which will fit your food processor tube.
Fit a food processor with the grating blade which has small holes.
With the motor running continually, grate the bananas and yautia.
Discard the water in the large bowl just used, dry the bowl and transfer the grated contents of the food processor to the bowl.
Fit the food processor with the cutting blade, add the grated mixture, olive oil and the 2 packets of Sazon. Process until completely smooth.
Spray a small pan with non-stick cooking spray, drop one or two tablespoons of banana mixture and flatten and fry until browned on both sides. This is to taste for any needed salt of seasoning. Adjust seasonings accordingly. It’s good, isn’t it?!
Transfer the banana mixture to a large storage container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
vegetable oil to fry
When ready to assemble and fry the fritters, heat one inch of oil in a large frying pan to about 300° or medium high.
Tear a small piece of tin foil or parchment paper into a 5X3″ rectangle and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
Holding the paper in your hand, spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the green banana mixture onto the paper and gently spread it with the back of the spoon into a 4-5″ circle. Photos are posted below the recipe.
Top the middle of the mixture with 2-3 teaspoons of the ground beef mixture.
Using the back of the spoon, smooth the banana mixture over the meat completely covering it. Cover any hole with a bit of the banana from the storage container. The fritter should be the shape of a torpedo without any meat showing through.
Gently slide the fritter into the hot oil and continue shaping the fritters and adding them to the frying pan until the pan is full. Leave an inch of space between the frying fritters.
Fry the fritters 4-5 minutes and turn them to fry on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked fritters and drain on paper towels.
Continue assembling and frying the fritters until there is no more of the mixtures.
In Puerto Rico cod fritters, or bacalaitos, are a quintessential party food. Wildly popular, these fritters are even sold at the beach. Right on the sand are wooden shacks with tin roofs, some with a few tables, some only serving take out. Typically salsa is blasting at full volume while a stiff ocean breeze tempts bathers with the perfume of garlic and culantro. If you spy a cook working behind her bubbling pot still in her house coat with pink foam curlers in her hair, hips swaying in tune with the music, I strongly suggest you stop there to eat! I promise you won’t be disappointed. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, summers and holidays, these fritters were not often served. In those days my family was suspicious of any street food and would have been horrified if we had even asked for a bite. My grandparents felt anything worth ingesting was just as good or better at home. And that would have been fine except we never had bacalaitos at home. Why, I don’t know… because they’re bad for you? (They ARE fried!) Nevertheless, on outings with uncles, aunts and cousins, we were often rewarded for good behavior at the end of day with a little fried something.
Big doin’s for me when the treat happened to be cod fritters. I don’t know why they’re called “fritters” as they’re not the shape of, say, apple fritters or conch fritters… they’re not rounded in shape but flat…like a cookie. Crispy on the outside but tender and chewy on the inside, these “frituras” were served hot out of the fat and wrapped in a paper napkin. Sometimes, if we happen to be in a really upscale shack, the fritters were loosely wrapped in a napkin then tucked into a small, brown paper bag. We tossed the napkins and let the paper bag soak up the excess oil while savoring every salty nugget of bacalao, cod, studded throughout the fritter. Tanned, barefooted and covered with beach sand is how I like to remember enjoying this street food!
1 pound salt cod, deboned and soaked in cold water 8-12 hours, changing the water several time to get rid of the salt
10 garlic cloves
10-12 whole black peppercorns
1 bunch culantro (approximately .75 ounces) or 20 leaves, ripped into 2″ pieces
2 3/4 cups broth from the cod. You’ll be boiling the fish briefly so don’t throw the broth out!
3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional if needed
2 teaspoons baking powder
Discard the water the cod has soaked in and place the fish in a pot covered with 1″ of fresh, cold water. Bring the water to a boil and cook the fish for 10-15 minutes.
Remove the fish from the broth and set aside to cool. Reserve the broth for later in the recipe.
While the cod is cooling, add the garlic, peppercorns and culantro to a food processor or blender and process until you almost have a paste. If the ingredients stick and won’t process, add a tablespoon or two of the fish broth and continue processing.
When the cod is cool enough to handle, gently pull the fish apart with your hands. You want it chunks in your fritters as opposed to a feathery mess.
In a separate large bowl combine the flour and baking powder.
Mix the broth into the flour by hand. The batter should be the consistency of pancake batter. If too thin, add a bit more flour. If too thin, add a little more broth but, in either case, not too much.
To the flour/broth mixture add the flaked cod and the garlic/culantro mixture and mix well by hand.
Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so to let the baking powder do its job.
In a heavy-bottomed frying pan or pot, pour in vegetable oil until it reaches 1″ on the sides. Heat the oil on high.
When the oil is hot and “shimmers” spoon 1/4 cup into the pan making 3-4 fritters, depending on the size of your pan. You don”t want to crowd them. If the fritters are browning too fast drop the heat down to medium-high.
Fry each fritter 3-4 minutes or until golden, turning only once.
Drain the fritters on a paper bag or paper towels. If you want to be truly authentic, thread each fritter through the middle with a metal skewer and hang across a large pot allowing the oil to drain to the bottom of the pot.
Serve immediately or keep warm in a very low oven.
It feels like fall, y’all! We’ve had major rain here in Lauderdale and the temperature has plummeted to 82°. It’s 3:00p.m. and the street lights are on…as well as the AC. Well, a girl can dream. And when I do, at times it’s of pumpkin. Nothing says autumn like pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake and, especially, pumpkin fritters. They’re like crunchy and soft bites of warm and sweet pumpkin pie. These fritters are quick, easy and cheap. You probably have all the ingredients in your pantry. It’s a great treat for your family or dessert for the casual drop-by company. There aren’t really any do’s or don’ts. After mixing it all up, letting the batter sit for a while undisturbed does enhance the flavor. And I found using a small melon ball scoop to drop the batter into the hot oil gives consistent size fritters which will cook evenly. They’re best served immediately after dusting with powdered sugar but I haven’t seen any refused the following day after preparing.
Great with a cup of coffee or hot tea, these fritters welcome all the spices you like in your pumpkin pie. Don’t care for cloves? Don’t add them. If you’re not a fan of powdered sugar, roll them in cinnamon sugar. And if you’d like to fancy the fritters up a bit, warm some caramel sauce and drizzle it over the platter as you’re serving them. You might want to try serving them with fresh fruit, such as strawberries or blackberries, which cut the richness and really add to the flavors of the pumpkin pie spices. Hope you enjoy them!