I'm standing by the bin with plantains in the grocery store and a stranger approaches me to ask how he can tell when plantains are ready, when is ripe too ripe and how to get them ripe? If this sounds familiar, then continue reading!
To decide how to cook this starchy fruit, first you must decide what you want for the final product. Some options are: grilling, baking, boiling, frying. Growing up in Jamaica, I've been fortunate to enjoy this fruit in all these stages and my favorite type of plantain is fried. How do you know when it's time to fry plantains into a caramelized sweetness?
Shop or prep for the perfect plantain:
When I plan to make a serving of fry plantains, I start shopping days, if not 2-weeks, in advance. If I'm unable to locate the perfect ripen plantain, then I need time to get the plantain ripen to the perfect stage - dull yellow with patches of black or completely black.
What to do if you are unable to find plantains at the perfect stage? Purchase the yellowest plantains, then place them next to each other in a paper bag, seal and store in a warm, well-ventilated place.
From this group of plantains, my selection to fry are the ones farthest from the front shown here.
To fry the plantain:
1. Pour your choice of cooking oil in your frying pan - do not over heat the oil. I use vegetable oil to fry my plantains.
2. Remove both ends of the plantain and slice the skin down the length of the plantain. Be careful not to slice too deep into the skin, as you will lose more of your plantain than you want to. I use my thumb to guide the knife, as I slice along the length of the plantain. The option is yours on slicing the plantain for frying; however, my suggestion is to create even size slices.The plantain should retain its shape during the process of slicing. If the plantain is falling apart during this process, it is mostly too ripe and will be extremely sticky in the frying process.
P.S. Adjust the heat of the oil, if needed, to prevent burning your plantains!
3. Turn the plantains on each side to brown evenly (approx. 2 minutes on each side). Be careful not to create a splash in the process of turning the plantains (remember the oil is extremely hot at this point).
4. Have a container set to the side that has the ability to drain/absorb the oil and prevent soggy plantains. You may place the plantain on a sheet of paper towel to absorb the oil.
Time to enjoy the goodness!
The temptation is to quickly grab a bite of this sweet delicious food - but wait a minute or two to allow it to cool.
Caramelized sweet ripe plantains are to die for, when it melts in your mouth with that sweetness - then you know you got it right!
Go shop, locate the perfect plantain or store it until it reaches perfection - fry it, then share with me the results!
Until next time - Irie and as we say in Jamaica "walk good" (take care)!