Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tacos to go BANANAS over!

Have you ever eaten a plantain? Have you tried cooking with plantains?

Several months ago my mom came to visit and we decided to have an enchilada dinner party complete with margaritas and dessert at my brother's place. I decided that I was going to attempt fried plantains. I had never cooked with plantains or even eaten one, but all of the online photos I found looked delicious!

Looks easy enough, right?

Guess what?! NOT THAT EASY.

Cooking with plantains was not as intuitive as I had imagined. I had an image in my head that involved a house full of people enjoying homemade enchiladas in front of the fireplace while I sneaked (it sounds weird to me too) away to the kitchen to whip up a dessert that would look painstaking and time consuming, but couldn't possibly take longer than 10 minutes to prepare.

In reality, I slaved away in the kitchen trying to make the plantains NOT taste like poison.  A raw plantain is what I imagine biting into a piece of chalk would taste like. A piece of chalk dipped in gasoline. I spent the better part of the evening experimenting with the plantain frying process and deciding how much sugar was too much sugar when trying to mask the taste of guano. (The answer? There will never be enough sugar.)

So, imagine my surprise when my brother forwarded me this recipe with a request to make it. And then imagine my (our) surprise when I made them on Saturday and they were FANTASTIC!

Not disgusting!

I would like to apologize in advance for the lack of brilliant photography. These were all taken on my cell phone and thus are not the highest quality.

The morning preceding this afternoon of plantain heaven consisted of a CPR class. We had been stuck inside for far too long on Seattle's first legitimately hot, sunny day. It was time to celebrate! It was time for lunch! The plantain taco recipe circled around my brain like a leering vulture eying a carcass, and off to the store we went. We decided that if our plantain experience was anything like the last time, we were, if nothing else, CPR certified.

                                                                                         Ingredients (made roughly 8 tacos):
Yes, that salt looks like shrimp flakes.
I assure you it is not.
It's actually
 Himalayan Pink Salt.  

2 large not ripe plantains

Cilantro (if you're not one of those people)

Black Olives

Black Beans

Bell Pepper (or Tomato)

Onion (green onion if your brother is crazy)

Red Cabbage (or, if you are me, coleslaw mix!)

Guacamole (or Avo Hummus---who knew?!)

Spices - Salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin etc.

 Corn Tortillas (not pictured because I forgot)

So, if you by-passed the recipe link (I won't be offended, this is a very link-happy post), or clicked on it and discovered it was a video and decided not to watch it, I will walk you through the creation of Plantain Tacos.

To begin you will peel and cut your plantains in half.

Now, don't be tempted to eat even a bite of that plantain. I know, I know, "But it looks like a banana!!". DON'T!!!

Finally, the secret? Boil your plantains. This is what makes them NOT DISGUSTING! If only I had known! Such an easy step.

So, boil your plantains until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork. It took mine about 15 minutes, but I was definitely erring on the side of caution (and past experience). The plantains will turn a dark yellowish color and if you taste one now, you won't die. I promise. Really!!

As the plantains boil feel free to chop your onion and pepper. I used half the pepper for the filling (I diced this half) and the other half for a topping (which I sliced thinly). This is also a great time to chop your cilantro, rinse and drain your black beans and mix yourself another vodka soda. You've had a long day of learning how to save lives, you deserve it!

Remove the plantains from the boiling water and let them cool off. In a skillet on medium heat add a dollop of olive oil and your diced peppers and onion (if using). Don't add the green onion yet, just regular old onion. Saute the vegetable(s) until softened. While that is cooking, slice your plantain like you would a cucumber and throw it in with the peppers and/or onions.

As the plantains fry toss in your spices. My plantains got a little dry, so I also added some JalapeƱo juice and some Mango Salsa until the liquid was absorbed. Let them cook until browned, about 10 minutes, and then toss in the green onions and cook another 3 minutes.

To assemble:

1) Take a tortilla and spread some guacamole or Avo Hummus (seriously, it was all that the Grocery Outlet had. And yes, we went shopping at the Grocery Outlet. And I love it there. And I also bought the the mother-load of bungee cords so I can ride my bike to the Grocery Outlet ANY TIME!).

2) Sprinkle some black beans inside and add your plantain/pepper/onion mixture.

3) Top with red cabbage (OR coleslaw mix) and your sliced bell peppers (or tomato)

4) Garnish with cilantro and ENJOY!

It's pretty amazing how something potentially life-threatening can also taste SO GOOD! The other thing I took away from this experience is not to write off a food simply because it tasted poisonous the first time I tried it. This of course means that I will have to give those pickled Japanese plum things another try. Hm.

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