Last week Theo (Dr. Norvelle’s sister) and I made Tostones – fried plantain hors d’oeuvres! I first encountered this deliciously unhealthy food in Nicaragua last year. Several friends and I had an amazing whirlwind trip filled with photography, food, dancing, and the most amazing wedding I have ever attended. Along the way we decided that we liked Tostones enough to make them at home. They were a great success.
Theo showed me a new twist on the Nicaraguan recipe, and I can’t decide which I like better. I suppose I shall just have to present both!
Tostones, which here also go by the amusing name of “Caras del gatos” (Cats’ faces) are fried plantain (platano) – the thick cooking banana. They are delicious.
First take several plantains when they are not fully ripe and peel them. Cut them into chunks about the width of a finger joint and have them ready.
Heat a pan with oil deep enough to at least halfway submerge the slices of plantain. Wait until the oil is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles and skitters around the pan and then add the plantain. You can do it in batches if there are too many slices. Fry one side for a minute or two then flip over. You want to see a color change towards a golden brown, but you are not trying to cook everything through and through – just to evenly fry the outside. When both sides are fried remove the plantains from the oil.
The next step is to flatten the just fried-chunks into flat little pancakes. This usually works best if you place them between saran wrap or waxed paper and then use the bottom of a heavy cup or perhaps a small cutting board to mash them into little pancakes. Not too thin or they fall apart. I think this is where the name “Cat’s face” must come from because cats have those flat little noses, but that is supposition on my part.
Then this is where the recipes diverge. See (1.) for the delicious tostones de Nicaragua or (2.) for Tostones Honduranian.
- The now flattened plantain pancakes go back into the hot oil for frying session number two. Depending on how hot your oil is this can take varying amounts of time, but the point is to fry them homogeneously golden. Then take them out and drain them on paper towel while you slice squares of cheese. In Nicaragua we had the salty white cheese that is very close to feta, but I think these would be great with jack or cheddar as well. Then spike a toothpick down through the cheese and into the fried plantain and you have Tostones! This recipe is delicious because the cheese starts to melt a little and you have the contrast between the slightly melty cheese and the crunch giving way to softness in the center of the plantain.
- For option two you will need several cloves of garlic (or more if you really like garlic). Mash the garlic and combine in a bowl with half a cup to a cup of water and some splashes of oil. Maybe add a pinch of salt and pepper, and whatever other spices you desire. I am going to try rosemary when I get home. Then dunk the flattened plantains in the garlic water and make sure they are well coated in the mixture. Then return the garlicky pancakes to the oil and fry until they are a nice golden color on both sides. Remove from oil and pat dry with paper towels and serve! These are delicious all by themselves, but could be dressed up a bit with a dollop of cream cheese or sour cream and some chives and served as an hors d’oeuvres.
Basically what I’m trying to tell you is that cooking bananas are delicious!