Friday, June 12, 2009
How to Make the Perfect Tostones. Period.
Prior to the advent of Nick, I used to go out with my single, childless pals nightly. Nightly. After his arrival, I lost interest in all things club/bar/alcoholish and my closest pals really took this to heart.
They would complain about how they never got to see me anymore so I gathered the few I considered true friends and created a weekly dinner at my house on Thursdays called Family Dinner.
The menu varied weekly and I admit, it was a way for me to practice and share my love of and prowess in the kitchen...not to mention my friends were always eager to come. Now those dinners include more folks 'cuz we've incorporated hubby's most cherished as well.
One of the menu items requested most often and complimented to the nines was- is tostones. I say 'is' because they were requested again for last night's dinner and did not fail to impress.
If you have no idea what a toston is then a) you're missing out and b) you don't know any Latinos- specifically Cubans. While tostones are not really specific to Cubans, I am of Cuban descent, they are a Cuban staple AND my Cuban grandmother taught me how to make 'em.
So by default, to me, they are Cuban.
Tostones, pronounced toes-toe-nays, are nothing more than twice fried, green plantains. Yet, for as easy as I think they are to make, some people have difficulty making them and always ask me why mine taste so good.
I admit, a good toston is more complex than just cutting a plantain and frying it but it's not rocket science either. Apart from the mojo with which they are customarily served, certain prep and cooking techniques are what I find key when making the perfect tostones.
Green plantains (the greener the better- they cannot be ripe)
I can't stress enough the importance of the plantains being green. If you get ripe ones, you end up with maduros, a totally different side dish. Your best bet is buying them the day of.
First you'll want to peel the plantains. This isn't as easy as it sounds, though and totally different from peeling a regular ole banana. Sometimes the peel gets stuck to the plantain. You'll first want to chop the ends off. The best way to get that peel off is to slice it, making sure to not cut into the actual plantain. Slice the peel in half by making two lengthwise cuts on each plantain. Then take the tip of the knife, or your nice manicured nail, and work a corner piece of peel off making sure to keep the peel intact. The stick your fingertip or nail underneath the bed of the peel, running lengthwise along the plantain. The peel will come off slowly.
After you've peeled your plantains, you'll want to cut them in 1/2" to 1" thick pieces.
Then, and this is what I think is key, fill a bowl with water and salt and place the cut up plantains in the mixture and let it sit there. Watch TV, gab on the phone, or just continue other menu items like I do. I let them sit in there for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
Note: anything longer than that and you'll want to stick your bowl with plantains in the fridge or your plantains will start turning black.
When you're ready to fry your plantains, heat up enough oil in a pan/skillet to cover half the length of your cut plantains. Turn the burner on high and wait for the oil to heat up.
Plop as many cut plantains as you can into your pan/skillet. Fry them for about 5 minutes on each side until they are a light golden color (raw plantain is whitish).
Then remove them from the oil and place them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Then use a plantain apparatus- like a tortilla press, although the palm of your hand and some wax paper will do just fine just make sure to wear a glove or something if using your hand as these puppies are H O T, to flatten the plantain chunk.
I use a cute wooden apparatus and truth be told, my sous chef helps me squash 'em.
Once you've flattened your plantains to about 1/4" thickness, return them to your skillet until they are really golden on both sides. I like to add a little salt directly on to each plantain at this stage.
Once again, remove them from the skillet and drain them on some paper towels. Place them on a platter and step back as your guests attack the serving dish.
You can garnish them with any number of things but my grandmother's SUPER SECRET mojo recipe is undoubtedly the best in my unbiased opinion...I could tell you what it is but you'd have to marry me (bigamy is illegal in Florida) or someone else in my family first.
Tostones go well with anything- even alone but on this night they were a side dish to Arroz Imperial, and since there was equal interest, maduros.