Fiesta Fridays: Tostones with Cilantro-Garlic Dipping Sauce

As I walked through the market, barely keeping up with my companions, I noticed something that shocked me.  Plantains had been something I had become familiar with years before, as my junior year high school teacher, in his very believable Spanish accent, showed a nervous class how to fry plantains in our 1970’s built Catholic school.  At that first meeting between me and the starchy fruit, we hesitantly peeled the vibrant green plantains, sliced them, and placed them in the sizzling oil.  The smell of the plantains frying instantly enchanted me, and tostones have been one of my favorite go to sides since then.  What shocked me as I walked thruogh the market was the variety of the types available.  Platanos burros, platanos machos, platanos maduros, all next to colorful papayas, guavas, and bitter oranges.  The smells and sights of the market were intoxicating, and the urge to purchase everything was almost overpowering, but couldn’t compare to the measly 25 cuban pesos I had in my pocket.  I, of course, went for the plantains, gathered them in my borrowed plastic bag, and headed back to the apartment.

Plantains and Other Produce in a Market in Cuba, courtesy http://www.taringa.net/post/femme/5341410/Como-freir-un-platano.html
Plantains and Other Produce in a Market in Cuba, courtesy http://www.taringa.net/post/femme/5341410/Como-freir-un-platano.html

I have decided that Fridays will be appetizer/snack and drink day, because those are the best part of Friday nights for me.  In celebration of the kickoff of the Friday Fiesta series, I thought it was entirely appropriate to have the first post be about one of my favorite snacks/guilty pleasures, tostones.

Tostones are found throughout much of the Caribbean islands and Central America, where plantains are a native crop.  They are a perfect snack, a starchy, fried item that can be eaten by itself, with a meal, or topped in a million different ways.

Notes: I usually use platanos machos, which are the longer version (and pretty much the only kind I can find in my area currently).  You may also use the platano burro, which is a shorter, stubbier version.  Tostones are made with green, unripe plantains, so stay away from ones that are turning yellow, already yellow, or just straight up black already…unless you are planning on making delicious, sweet, melt in your mouth maduros, in which case, totally go for the yellow-black ones.  Plantains, if you have never used them before, can be unbelievably difficult to peel.  The best way is to cut the ends off, then cut a long slice lengthwise, and try to remove the peel that way.  I have also seen people cut them into their desired chunk size and then remove the peel from each one of those.  I prefer the former, because it seems easier and quicker to me.  To crush and flatten the plantain before the second frying, I like to use the bottom of a flat glass.  My mother-in-law uses her hand to crush each one, but they don’t get as crispy this way.  Again, while you can do it either way, I prefer the former.  As I stressed in my recent post on fried rice, and especially for any dipping sauce like the one included in this recipe, use your own taste to judge.  Everyone likes things a little different and don’t be afraid to add or take away something.  Enjoy!

Tostones with Cilantro-Garlic Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

4-5 green plantains

Vegetable Oil for frying

salt to taste

For Sauce:

1/2 cup mayo

1/2 cup tomato ketchup

1-2 cloves of garlic

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tablespoon cilantro

salt to taste

Implements:

Large, heavy-bottomed pan for frying

Sharp knife

Glass with flat bottom for crushing plantains

Fork/tongs for flipping tostones

Paper-towel lined plate

Directions:

For sauce:

1. Chop the cilantro finely and mince the garlic.

2. Put mayo, ketchup, garlic, lime juice, cilantro in a small bowl.  Stir all ingredients together, taste, and add desired amount of salt.

3.  Place finished dip aside.

For tostones:

4. Peel plantains and discard peels.  Slice plantains into 1-1.5 inch pieces.

Sliced Plantains, courtesyhttps://lavidalimones.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/a-little-piece-of-china-in-havana/
Sliced Plantains, courtesy http://thewoksoflife.com/2014/11/tostones-tomato-salsa/

5.  Fill pan with oil, to make a layer of about 1/2 -3/4 inch of frying oil.  Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering.

6.  Place first batch of platains into oil, leaving some space between each one.  Fry until golden on one side, then flip to other side.  Fry to golden on the second side.

7.Remove plantains and place on paper-towel lined plate and let sit while frying next batch.

8. Place next batch of plantains in the oil to fry, and repeat steps 3 and 4.

9.Once all plantains have been fried once and have cooled slightly, crush each piece with the bottom of a glass, carefully, to avoid breaking.

10. Place the plantains in the oil into batches to fry again, flipping once, until crispy and golden-brown on both sides.  Remove from oil and place on a paper-towel lined plate and sprinkle generously with salt.  Repeat until all plantains have been fried for the second time and salted.

11. Plate up the sauce on the plate with the tostones and enjoy!

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