With so many people choosing grain and dairy free diets (for pressing health reasons or otherwise), there has been an explosion of effort to come up with grain and dairy-free recipes for bread and other baked goods. There’s no nice way to say this, but guys, you can throw all the xantham gum, palm shortening, psyllium seed husk, and tapioca starch you want at your mixing bowl, but you will not get the same structure and flavor that you get from gluten and butter. I’m not saying that there are no good grain-free breads out there and that there are no decent approximations of some baked goods that will satisfy some palates, but I am saying that if you have these dietary restrictions, you can kiss your chewy baguette and buttery, flaky croissant- eating days goodbye.
So what’s a person to do? Let me tell you a little story: One night about three months ago, just as I was starting to get back on my feet, my husband made burgers for dinner and followed the same routine that he had followed at least once a week for the two months I had been on AIP: he wrapped mine in lettuce and served it paleo-style with a side of sweet potato fries. For no good reason, on that particular day, this simple meal that we had eaten weekly suddenly frustrated me to the point that, after dinner, I got into the shower and just started to sob. I’m a pretty composed person and don’t usually fall apart over small things unless they catch me off guard when I’m tired, and this one stupid bunless burger did just that: it symbolized all of the exhaustion, the loss of my old energetic lifestyle, the unwanted weight loss, the loss of my health, and I HATED IT.
But then, I remembered how when I was a kid, my mom used to take me to McDonald’s and would put fries onto my burger, and I always thought that someone should just do away with the generic bun and make one out of french fries. That, my friends, would be the ultimate burger.
Do you know what tastes similar to a french fry? Fried green plantains, which, incidentally, are often flattened into discs and used the way you would use bread on a sandwich (Puerto Ricans have been doing this for years). Do you see where I’m going with this? A BURGER WITH A FRENCH FRY BUN, and it’s every bit as good as it sounds. This is only one of several delicious ways to prepare green plantains, so let’s look at some of the many options this culinary uberplant gives you in the kitchen.
How to peel plantains (green, yellow, or black)
Though they look like oversize bananas, plantains don’t peel the same way bananas do. A small knife makes this job a lot easier- simply slice off both ends and then cut a slit in the skin down the length of the plantain, then peel the skin. If the plantain is deep green, you’ll likely need to work your finger under the skin to separate it from the flesh and the skin may come off in chunks; the riper the fruit, the easier to peel it will be. Pull the skin from the flesh and discard the skin.
How to cook with green plantains
Green plantains can be used in many of the same ways that you would use potatoes: you can boil and mash them, bake them, grill them, shred or slice them and fry them, use them to thicken soups, and make chips with them. If you’ve ever been at a loss for how to prepare green plantains, here is a little inspiration for you:
Baking: You can bake plantains in their skins for a simple side dish or snack, or you can purchase plantain flour to use in your gluten-free/grain free baking. Plantain crackers are particularly good with a dollop of guacamole, and even better if you top that with a piece of grilled shrimp.
Mofongo (mashed plantains with garlic): Cut the plantains into chunks and boil until softened. Mash with chicken stock, garlic, and a bit of fat (olive oil, bacon fat, chicken fat, even butter). Serve immediately, usually with any variety of Caribbean shrimp, chicken, or pork dishes. A tasty variation is to mash them with coconut milk and chicken stock (or even all coconut milk) and add a bit of fresh lime juice. Kind of like this, but with boiled plantains.
Tostones (twice-fried plantains): Slice the plantains into thick coins and shallow-fry them until golden on both sides (I use coconut oil, but use what you’d like). Remove them from the oil and flatten them (press on them with the back of a small skillet or something similar) and then fry again on both sides until golden. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.
Plantain hash browns/latkes: Grate the plantains on the large hole side of a box grater. You can either just mix with salt and form them into small patties and then fry, or you can add grated apple for sweetness, or you can go all out and add egg/flour of choice/grated onion/seasonings of choice and make a proper plantain latke.
Use plantains for burger buns/sandwiches: Prepare them exactly like tostones, but instead of cutting them into coins, slice the plantain in half lengthwise and then slice each length in half widthwise (you’ll end up with a quartered plantain). You can use these large tostones for burgers, sandwiches, and open-faced sandwiches.
Baked plantain chips: Thinly and evenly slice plantains into roughly 1/8″ coins (a mandoline slicer is great here for evenness- it helps ensure your chips cook evenly without burning) and toss with olive or coconut oil, salt, and preferred seasonings (cinnamon or garlic are good places to start). Bake in a 400 degree oven for 16-20 minutes, flipping the chips halfway through cooking time. Keep an eye on them towards the end of cooking as they will burn quickly. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve immediately.
Soup: Try using plantains in a Caribbean version of a creamy potato soup: Lightly sweat some onions in coconut or olive oil. Add spices (like cumin and coriander), then add chicken stock and chunks of plantains. Boil until plantains are tender, then puree the soup. Finish with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and you could swirl in some coconut cream if you’re feeling fancy.
Now, it’s your turn: What’s your favorite way to eat plantains? Do you cook with them often, or are they an ingredient you’ve always kept at arm’s length at the grocery store? Let me know below in the comments!
Note: This post contains affiliate links which help support Nicole Elizabeth/thefreshkitchen. Learn more