Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Simple Boiled Plantains

You may be wondering what a plantain is, or perhaps you've seen them at a market and didn't know what they are or what to do with them, or maybe you bought them thinking they were a regular sweet banana only to find they weren't.

Plantains are a member of the banana family, they are starchy and low in sugar and must be cooked before they are eaten. They are uneatable in their raw bitter form. Plantains are a big part of Hispanic cooking, as well as, in Caribbean, African and even Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. Plantains can be cooked and eaten at different stages of ripeness and will produce vastly different flavors. And if you are wondering plantains are packed with good for you nutrients and benefits, like vitamin A, B6, C, potassium (more than bananas), fiber, are a good source of carbohydrates and decreases homocystine levels (which cause coronary artery disease).

When cooked when the outsides are green they are savory. When cooked when the outsides are green and tinted with hues of yellow, they are somewhere in between savory and sweet. when cooked when the outsides are yellow and almost blackened they are very sweet. Think of them as the biscuit of southern cooking, the naan of Indian food, the tzatziki of Greek food, I think you get the picture. Plantains are not quite a side dish and not quite a dish on their own. Generally, they are more of an accompaniment to food. They are there to complement the food, they complete the flavor profile of a meal. For example, I can't imagine having Cuban Picadillo without fried sweet plantains, or Nicaraguan Carne Enchorizada without boiled plantains. That is not say you can't use them as a main dish or as an appetizer, it's just that on a day to day basis, this is how they are used. So next time you are in the market and you see a plantain, pick up a few and give them a try, I think you might be surprised at how good they are.

2 plantains, green to yellow ripeness, ends removed, cut in thirds, leave skin on
6 cups of water
2 pinches of salt

This level of ripeness produces a savory-sweet flavor
Place plantains in deep pot, add water, bring to a boil, add salt. Continue to boil, lid on, for 20-30 minutes or until a knife slides all the way through to the other side of the plantain. Skin slides right off or you can cut down the side and it will slip out of the skin.

What to expect ... a savory-sweet flavor, it will be dense and hearty. Enjoy!

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