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Very dark, soft, caramelized plantains--how?

I used to eat at a restaurant in Beverly Hills called Bossa Nova just for their delicious plantains. They were listed on the menu as fried plantains, and they were very soft, and extremely dark and sweet. I have tried to recreate them on my own with limited success. The closest I could find was a recipe online for "platanos en tentacion" which involves frying the ripe plantains in oil and butter, then boiling them in a sugar syrup until it is reduced to a glaze. They were much sweeter than the ones I am trying to create (which may have been cooked with sugar, but which were not "glazed"). Also, the plantains were firm inside, despite the fact that they were almost completely black (less than 10% yellow left), and that the first step in the recipe is to beat the plantains with a wooden spoon before peeling them to soften them up.

I have considered slicing them lenghwise into a couple of pieces rather than on a slant, to create thinner slices, in the hopes that they will cook more thoroughly and be softer (the outside of the fruit seems softer than the core, which always remains firm for me). Also, maybe beating them more vigorously to soften them even more before peeling. I was also thinking about boiling them until they were soft and then frying them.

So, any ideas or recipes you can share? I have many more plantains ripening right now, so I'll be trying another method soon, and I'd appreciate any advice or help.

Thanks,

Angus

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  1. I think a lot of restaurants deep-fry their plaintains, which is why they are so good.

    What I do at home, though, is this
    1. pan fry them on low heat until soft (but still able to hold its shape)
    2. remove from pan and place on paper towels and cool completely
    3. when ready to eat, heat up pan with oil to 350 or so
    4. return plaintains to pan and fry until dark and crispy

    I tend cut my plaintains on the bias, about 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick.

    Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Vshu

      exactly how I do mine. I have family in Honduras and plantains are a staple down there -- however, the deep-fried method gets you a much more savory than sweet plantain.

      There's another method that involves drizzling half-rotted plantains with oil and baking them, which gets them much softer and sweeter, but they aren't fried. I prefer them fried with sour cream...mmm...

      1. re: Vshu

        Those are tostones right? Made with unripened plantains?

      2. You'll be surprised how black plantains need to look before they are sweet and ripe. If you want it sweet...they will look almost rotten. Experiment by buying a few plantains and letting nature run its course and sampling one every couple of days until you find the sweet spot.

        4 Replies
        1. re: fmed

          Yeah, one of the ones from yesterday was quite soft and entirely black. A portion of it, though, was slimy and smelled like it had started fermenting. Should I have just used that, or cut that portion away? It's such a fine line between ripe and rotting.

          1. re: angusb

            I would have cut off the rotting end. Did you leave it to ripen at room temperature?

            1. re: fmed

              Yes, I left it to ripen at room temp. Is there another option?

              1. re: angusb

                No - you are doing it right. Don't refrigerate....but you know that.

        2. I cook it the way I was taught in Grenada: wait til they are jet black, peel and cut lengthwise; fry in butter(a precious commodity). If you want a little extra sweetness you can drizzle a touch of honey; some people add the lime for the sweet-sour thing or even allspice to echo a B. Fosters thing, etc.

          1. For sweetening, try the raw brown sugar that comes in cones, piloncillo. Make a syrup by boiling one (or more) of those cones in water.

            paulj

            1. I agree that the error is that they aren't quite ripe enough. There shouldn't be any yellow left at all, and they should give when squeezed. I just cut them in chunks, maybe 1/2 inch and saute them in oil, keep turning so they don't burn. The smashing isn't part of my recipe (they will be softer rather than crispy if you don't smash them), The cooking should be all you need to caramelize them if they're really ripe.

              Allspice is a nice seasoning. In Jamaica they make a version of patty (pastry turnover) with allspice flavored sweetened plantain filling (for some reason died bright pink). I often find the meat patties in the US but almost never the "plantain tarts". I really miss those.

              1. I'm participating in an island theme progressive dinner, and my house will be doing a cuban entree. I am having a very similar problem. I can't get my plantains ripe enough in a reasonable amount of time. I've had the same plantains on my counter for 3 weeks tomorrow, and they still have a significant amount of yellow on them. My real problem is that the dinner is exactly 3 weeks from tomorrow - so even if I buy my plantains tomorrow, I don't think they'll be ripe enough. Any ideas for speeding up the ripening process??

                8 Replies
                1. re: jeanmarieok

                  I wonder if putting them in a brown paper bag would work - as it does for avocados?

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    It does, In Trinidad, my mother would put then in a brown paper bag and place them under the kitchen sink, check them every day, and fry them only when the skin was completely black. She would use Ghee to fry them in .

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      jeanmarieok, I have discovered that plantains bought at different stores ripen at different rates. I think it depends on how they have been treated before you bought them. Reading up on it, I discovered that plantains and bananas that have been refrigerated below about 57 degrees will not ripen properly, even if brought back to room temp and held there for a long time. I bought plantains that looked very similar in terms of ripeness from two different stores recently. The ones from the mass market store have been in a paper bag for over 4 weeks and have gotten only slightly darker, whereas the ones I got at an international specialty store that carries mainly Mexican/Central & South American items ripened to almost completely black in only one week.

                      1. re: angusb

                        thanks! I've been buying mine in at Kroger, and have found that they take forever to ripen, if they ripen at all. I'm going to look for a latin american market, and see if I have better results with their plantains. Thanks for all of your replies.

                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                          So I'm even more convinced that my deduction about the plantains is correct. All of the plantains purchased at the big grocery store rotted while they were still half yellow (it took over 4 weeks). They started shriveling and getting moldy before turning black. The plantains that I bought at the specialty store all ripened in mostly good condition.

                          As I mentioned in another post, putting an apple in with the plantains does have a dramatic effect on the speed of their ripening. Another thing that I discovered is that plantains bought in a hard green state, or just starting to turn yellow, ripen in better condition than the plantains that were partially black to begin with. The plantains at the store that are already partially black often show signs of rough handling and bruising (the bruising is the cause of much of the blackness), whereas the green plantains are perfect on the outside. What I discovered is ridiculously simple in retrospect: that unbruised green plantains ripen into unbruised black plantains. Here I thought I was getting a jump on things by buying the partially blackened plantains, but I was actually defeating myself, because many of them were so bruised that portions of them had begun to spoil by the time they were fully ripened. Hard green plantains in a bag with an apple have ripened to completely black for me in about 8 or 9 days.

                          1. re: angusb

                            Good info!

                            How do you feel about the smashing vs. not-smashing technique?

                    2. re: jeanmarieok

                      I have heard that apples emit a gas that ripens fruit more quickly. Maybe put in a brown paper bag with an apple.

                      1. re: sarah galvin

                        Yes, I've heard that, too, but I know that all fruit gives off ethylene gas, so I thought that just sticking the plantains in a bag and closing it should be enough--it would trap the plantains' own ethylene and speed the ripening. But I decided to do a little research, and it turns out that using an apple is even better. Here are the results of an ethylene study where different fruits were rated according to how much ethylene they give off, and also how sensitive they are to the presence of ethylene (how quickly they will ripen if stored in an ethylene-rich environment): http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ethy... According to that study, plantains give off only a "low" amount of ethylene (bananas give off a "medium" amount), but apples give off a "very high" amount of ethylene. Plantains and bananas are both rated as highly sensitive to ethylene. As far as ethylene production, the only fruits other than apples that were rated as "very high" producers were cherimoya, sapota, and passionfruit, so it seems that in this case, the conventional wisdom is correct: putting your plantains (or bananas) in a bag with an apple WILL cause them to ripen faster than they would in a bag by themselves.