Side Dish

Sweet Plantains

Our love of plantains began while we were living in Miami.  Miami is home to a huge population of Cubans. There is even a neighborhood in Miami known as "Little Havana" in reference to the capital of Cuba.  Naturally there are also a ton of Cuban restaurants in Miami and they all serve some form of plátanos maduros (fried plantains) on the menu.  

Plantains are a staple of Latin American cuisine, and can even found in a few West African dishes.  There are many ways to cook plantains, these methods are all dictated by the plantains stage of ripeness.  Plantains are similar to bananas but tend to be firmer and lower in sugar content.  Plantains are usually cooked while bananas are predominately eaten raw.  Plantains like bananas start off very green signifying that they are unripe.  These unripe or Green Plantains are starchy like potatoes and have a similar flavor and texture.  It is no surprise then that green plantains are often fried into chips.  As the plantain beings to ripen it will become softer and sweeter.  When making a dish that calls for sweet plantains you should choose one that is black and yellow. Unlike a traditional banana, these black and yellow plantains have not gone bad.  They have simply ripened or overripe to the perfect state for a sweet dish. 

We like to eat our sweet plantains with Pernil (pork shoulder) and Rice & Beans covered in hot sauce.  The pork tends to have saltiness that gets cut buy the sweetness of the plantains.  All of this mixed in with the Rice & Beans provides it is a perfect marriage of sweet and Savory.  Fortunately there is a large Spanish population in New York City and we have been able quench our sweet plantain cravings even after leaving Miami.  

The time has come however that we learn to make our own. When looking for a recipe we found one from our favorite chef Tyler Florence. His recipes have not disappointed us before, so will his streak continue? keep reading to find out.

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 ripe black plantains
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

 Directions: 

  1. To peel the plantains, cut off ends and discard. With a paring knife, make 3 shallow slits lengthwise along the seams of the skin and peel away. Split the plantains lengthwise.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and place over medium low heat (plantains have a high sugar content and will burn if the heat is too high.) 
  3. Fry the plantains in a single layer, until golden on the bottom then turn over with a spatula. 
  4. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar and let cook a few more seconds, just to begin caramelizing the sugar.
  5. Just before serving, melt remaining tablespoon of butter to finish the sauce. Serve immediately.

Results:

These plantains came out very good.  They were super sweet and had a great soft texture. The flavor profile was jacked up a few notches thanks to the Vanilla and Cinnamon.  Both of these ingredients are not traditionally added to plantains in most Cuban/Spanish restaurants, but they do add great flavor. Traditionally these plantains would just be fried in butter or oil until they caramelized, sometimes with a small amount of brown sugar.  We were however pleased with Tyler's take on plantains. They would work well as a side dish to any savory Spanish dish. They could even be served with ice cream as a desert.  

Should or Should Not Eat:

Sweet plantains are a great side dish.  This recipe produces a great take on a traditional plantain that can function as a complement to your main dish or a star in a sweet desert.  This recipe is a Should Eat for us and if you have never had sweet plantains you should definitely give them a try.

Chayote Slaw

This recipe comes from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which featured a restaurant in Brooklyn called the Sidecar. They created a unique version of a Cuban Sandwich named the Cubano, made with pulled pork and baked ham. It was served on ciabtta bread with chayote slaw. Once we saw this sandwich made the Sidecar was added to our list of places to visit but then we found the recipe online for their Cubano. It looked so good on TV we decided to give it a try before we went for a visit. We got all of the ingredients and made all of the individual components for the sandwich but never ended up making a full Sidecar Cubano. Instead we decided to feature all of the recipes individually.

This whole time you were probably asking "What is a chayote?". Chyote is is an edible fruit belonging to the gourd family along with melons, cucumbers and squash. The chayote is native to Mexico, but has been introduced as a crop worldwide. The main growing regions are Costa Rica and Veracruz, Mexico.  The chayote is used in both raw and cooked forms. It has a fairly bland taste, and a texture is described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber. 

Now that we are all familiar with what a chyote is, we present to you the chyote Slaw.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint radishes
  • 1 chayote squash
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • Salt

Directions: 

  1. Slice the radishes and chayote 1/4-inch thick on a mandoline. 
  2. Combine with the cilantro, lime zest and lime juice in a mixing bowl and add salt to taste, adjusting the amount of lime juice as necessary.

Results:

We tasted some of the chyote before we added it into the slaw and it was bland. Radishes do not have a ton of flavor either, so we got worried that this recipe was going to be a waste of time. Our only hope was that the lime juice and cilantro could save this dish. Surprise, surprise they transformed our bland bowl of translucent slices into a deliciously sweet and crunchy side dish. We love the flavor profile that lime and cilantro bring to a dish. The lime juice helped to "pickle" the chyote and radishes, imparting a nice sweetness into each. Cilantro finished off the dish by adding its fresh citrus hint while adding some nice color. 

This slaw would be perfect on top of any taco, especially a pork taco. Due to the lime and cilantro, this slaw would also work nicely with any dish that uses a similar flavor profile. We could see it pairing nicely with grilled chicken. It would also make a nice summer BBQ alternative to traditional coleslaw.  We would recommend making this recipe, it could your summer surprise at your next BBQ!

Should or Should Not Eat:

Chyote Slaw is a Should Eat. This recipe provides a new twist on a traditional summer side dish. The crunch of the chyote and radishes paired with lime and cilantro creates this sweet and crunchy slaw with a refreshing citrus flavor profile.