Sweet plantains are one of my favorite foods. They are a traditional South American side dish– pure Latin comfort food. Whenever the Jury Room, aka my firm’s cafeteria, has maduros on the menu, I forgo all other New York City eateries and line up because I know I’m in for some delicious Latin home cooking. Sweet plantains are soft, slightly caramelized and pair incredibly well with, chicken, black bean soup or simply on their own. They’re easy to make if you know what you’re looking for. In order for them to be sweet, rather than like potatoes, the plantain’s skin has to be very ripe, almost black, with only little flecks of yellow. Maduro is the Spanish word for ripe. If you buy a green one, you will have the savory version of the dish. Usually maduros are fried, but I baked mine with the chicken I had made for the main dish and then transferred the molten flesh of the plantain to a dry, hot pan for about a minute on each side so the sugars would caramelize. All they require is a little finesse (typically nothing more than a little salt and olive oil if you choose) before the natural sugars form a molten crust that will make your salivary glands spew.
- 1 very ripe plantain with black skin
- Canola or corn oil
Healthy version (With less oil): Preheat oven to 350F. Cut a slit in the plantain’s skin from top to bottom, being careful not to cut the plantain. Put in oven for 30 minutes. Remove flesh from skin and cut into slices. Heat up a small pan, adding a tiny bit of oil if you wish and sear on both sides for about a minute. Add salt. Serve hot.
Regular version: Heat enough oil in a skillet so that the oil is about ¼ of an inch deep. Peel the black skin from the plantain and slice it diagonally into rounds that are about ½ inch thick. When a drop of water sizzles in the oil, add the plantain slices and cook until the bottom is golden brown. Turn over each slice and cook until both sides are evenly golden, with a hint of caramelization on the edges. Remove from oil and transfer to paper towels to drain; pat off any excess oil. Serve hot.