Plantains are not that popular in the U.S., but the rest of the world eats them up. They are a starchy staple of many tropical countries' diets. Wikipedia lists no fewer than 23 regional dishes that revolve around plantains. In the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras, and Venezuela they are sliced into chips and called plátanos maduros. In Cuba they are mashed into a porridge known as fufu. Plantains are fried in Ivory Coast and served with a tomato onion sauce and grilled fish to make aloco.
This recipe for Plantain Shoestring Fries from Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes is a great introduction to cooking with plantains. Most stores sell ripe and unripe plantains; they both look like giant mutant bananas, except that one type will be green and firm and the other will be black and soft. This recipe calls for the unripe, green variety, which is starchy enough to fry up crisp.
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- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 5 cups peanut oil
- 4 green plantains
Stir together the salt, lime zest, and cayenne in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed medium stockpot over medium heat, or a tabletop deep fryer, to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside.
While the oil is heating, peel the plantains. To peel the plantains: use a sharp knife to cut off the top and bottom ends. With the tip of the knife, make one slit in the skin of the plantain from top to bottom. Run the plantain under cold water and use your thumb and fingers to work the peel away from the fruit, beginning at the slit. Cut 1/2 inch off the ends of each plantain, then slice the plantains lengthwise with a U-shaped peeler or a mandoline into very thin strips ( about 1/8 inch thick). Cut each strip lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick fries.
Fry in batches, turning frequently, until golden brown, about 45 seconds. Remove with a mesh skimmer to the baking sheet lined with paper towels and season immediately with the salt mixture.