I freaking love plantains. All of them, in any way, any time. However, I really only make them one or two ways; either a mofungo or sweet-ripe & smashed fried (yes, that’s one thing). The thing about plantains is – they are a pain when they are green (like for mofungo) – peeling is a hassle, mashing is a b*#@h, and the whole dish takes a little time (though my mom makes some amazing pasteles, too). But for sweet-ripe & smashed, it’s just about patience for them to get really ripe. I mean, really ripe. And then they have a whole new purpose that is sticky and sweet and savory all at the same time.
I remember the first time I tried a plantain. I was a teenager and my friend and I were totally gung-ho to try new things so we bought one at the store, peeled a chunk and ate it – green and raw. It was terrible but we were not deterred. We could tell it had ‘potential’, and we knew millions of people ate them so we took it home and baked it. It was better so we knew we were on the right track. A few years later my Mom was involved with a Puerto Rican gentleman (for years) and my eyes were opened and my plantain tastebuds educated.
When it comes to black beans, in my opinion, many make it harder or more complicated than it needs to be. Black beans have such a lovely flavor, they don’t need much to bring it out. I use dry beans here, boiled and soaked for a couple of hours (they don’t usually need an overnight soak but that might depend on their age and size, mine are from last year’s garden and mine also run a little small). And plantains need to be almost all black, it’s worth asking the grocery store clerk if they have any ripe ones out back to get the ball rolling, takes another week or so beyond there, though they might ripen faster in a paper bag).
Black Beans and Fried Plantains
For the Beans:
2 cups dried Black Beans (bring to a boil, then soak for 2 hrs) or 4 cups cooked (can or box), rinsed
just enough water to cover
2 cloves smashed Garlic
2 Bay Leaves
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 tsp ground Cumin
1/4 cup Fresh Culantro or Cilantro (or a mix of both), minced
In a Medium pot, add beans, garlic, bay, cumin, and some salt (or adobo) with just enough water to cover. Cook until beans are tender and liquid is thick like you like it (if your beans cook fast – as with fresh or small beans – but you still have a lot of liquid, you can drain a bit, or mash soft beans with a potato masher, coarsely so some are left whole). Remove Bay Leaf (if left in bowls, the lucky winner gets to make a wish!). S & P to taste, add fresh herbs to serve.
* Variations include adding tomatoes, chili for spice, or broth for more body.
For the Plantains:
2 ripe/blackened Plantains, peeled and sliced into thick coins, 1/2″
Favorite frying oil (I like organic Peanut Oil)
In a cast iron fry pan, add 1/2″ oil and heat until shimmering but not spattering. Carefully place plantain slices in hot oil (2 plantains fit perfectly in my cast iron pan). Cook until edges are yellow and softening (2 min or so), flip and cook other side another 2 min. Plantains should be dark golden. Remove to a paper towel or rack for a minute. Using an eating fork smash plantains gently once or twice (like the tops of peanut butter cookies) and put back into pan to cook for one more minute on each side. (Yes, sometimes they are extra gooey and sticky, and sometimes they behave. Do your best, it’s not you – it’s just deliciousness doing its thing, I sometimes scrape them with a metal spatula and the fork together back into the pan). Again and remove to paper towel or rack and sprinkle with Sea Salt.
* Variations include sprinkling with ground ginger or chili, too.
Serve beans in bowls with a couple of plantains on the side, sprinkle all with fresh herbs! Sometimes we get gratuitous and add sliced avocado and/or sour cream, and/or eat it with chips or corn bread or rice! Enjoy!