Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Learning Is Very Rewarding

My Russian Jew of a mother taught me how to make fried plantains. In my world, this is funny. I had never heard of half the things I eat now when I was little. Not surprisingly, there were not too many plantains… or anything besides apples, really… for sale in Russia close to 20 years ago (oy. 20 years). I had only seen coconuts and pineapples in cartoons before moving to the U.S. To tell the truth, I hardly believed pineapples were real – they were just too alien-looking to be people-food.

There were a few more discoveries to be made along those same lines. For example, we had to learn that limes are not in fact, unripe lemons. If left on the countertop for extended periods of time, they will not miraculously morph into lemons. Also, coconuts are a complete bitch to open if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. An electric drill may or may not have been called into action. I shall say no more.

A lime's true identity and coconut techniques are things I bet many people take for granted. For myself and my family, however, it was a steep learning curve (for like, a month). I am fully adjusted and adapted now, and can even make fried plantains, the most un-Russian of all foods (I plead the fifth on the coconuts).

My Mom went on a trip to Brazil and brought back an undying love of plantains. [And some great earrings for me, but that’s beside the point.] They turn out to be stupidly simple to make but taste like a dream– peel a very ripe (almost black) plantain and slice on the diagonal, fry in canola oil, drain on a paper towel. That’s it. With frying, the outside of the plantain slices caramelizes, becoming crisp and a little chewy. The inside almost melts. Imagine a hot banana infused with butter… and mixed with a little bit of potato. That’s a fried plantain. Sweet and slightly starchy, they are best eaten oozingly, meltingly, scaldingly hot, sparing neither the skin of your fingertips nor the tip of your tongue.


atp said...

I've never tried plantain, would you say they're more sweet or savory? They just look to me like they're missing vanilla ice-cream, am I being terribly uncouth?

JC said...

I love plantains, I discovered them on a trip to Costa Rica. I have fried them at home before. You can buy the chips here in the Hispanic grocery. Since they are potato-like, I thought it might be interesting to try them mashed. An interesting experiment, but they turned out to be not all that good for some reason.

Anna said...

AtP - The riper the plantain, the sweeter it is. Greener plantains are more potato than banana. The ripe one that I made was sweet, but not so much that you couldn't eat it with a meal. Unless vanilla ice cream is your meal. In that case, you may need some caramel on top!

JC - I am not the biggest fan of the plantain chips. I kept trying to make myself like them, but no go. I am sorry your plantain experiment didn't work out. I have never had them mashed... Interesting thought though! Sorry it didn't work out. Probably could have used some caramel.