After months of chicken and burgers on the grill, I’m a little bored with normal barbecue fare, but not with steaming barbecued plantains. If you’re unfamiliar with plantains, I urge you to try barbecued plantains or plantain chips. You’re taste buds will love this sweet, yet tangy, treat.
Buy plantains when they have a yellow or pinkish tint to the skins. Storing them for up to a week will improve the taste. When the skins are heavily streaked with black, they’re not rotten, they’re perfect. Although technically a fruit, plantains are eaten as a vegetable. Unlike their look-alike cousin the banana, they must be cooked.
The easiest cooking method is baking. For baking on the barbecue, plan one medium plantain per person and leave the peels intact. Wrap each in foil and cook whole for 45-55 minutes. To serve, just unwrap, peel, and enjoy. They can be eaten plain, topped with a pat of butter, or seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. Simple but delicious.
Of course, plantains can be cooked in other ways. Another favorite method is to fry them as chips. For two people, start by peeling two ripe plantains. The peels strip off ripe plantains easily. If you’re cooking green plantains and the peel clings tenaciously to the flesh, slit the fruit lengthwise and pry apart or peel with a paring knife. After you’ve peeled your plantains, slice them thin or up to a half-inch thick depending on your desired result. Thick slices are soft and chewy when done, thin ones are crisp and cook quicker. Fry in a small amount of hot oil in the bottom of a skillet for up to two minutes per side, or deep fry in a basket for three or four minutes. When golden brown on both sides, remove from the pan and pat off the excess oil. Serve warm. Experiment to find the thickness you love most. Thick or thin, you can’t go wrong.
In Puerto Rico, the Caribbean islands, and Latin America, plantains are not only served with meals. Plantain chips are a popular snack. They’re sold next to the potato chips, and once you’ve tried them, you’ll never choose plain chips again. So, if you’re looking for something different and delicious for dinner tonight, try cooking a couple plantains on the barbecue. Enjoy!