While it seemed unusual to me at the time, I grew up in a fairly typical immigrant home where two families lived in one house, only separated by a staircase. Downstairs in our part of the house, my Honduran mom tried very hard to be a typical American housewife, brushing aside some of her Latin flairs to fit in more with my Italian-American dad. Downstairs, we ate boring American food at breakfast – boring toast, boring eggs and boring piles of crispy bacon. Upstairs, was another story and another country completely.
In their part of the house, my mother’s brother’s family lived enough Latin for all of us. (Thank goodness!) My uncle is also Honduran and his wife, my aunt, is Colombian. They rarely ate boring American food. And we regularly skipped upstairs to delight in their weekend cuisine.
Most of the children in the family, especially my sister, protected their stash of bacon on weekend mornings, because crispy bacon could mysteriously vanish from a child’s plate in our house. I liked bacon and love it today, but I totally favored fried plantains way more than pig. Pig is wonderful – cured, delicious and salty – but in my mind at the time, pig was very American. I much preferred to fight over the very exotic fried plantain coins.
Prized like gold, and with the same warm hue to match when fried just right (though I prefer them a touch over done), plantains were typically served when we were all a bit more relaxed. The process of cutting, frying, and appropriately divvying them up among all the kids was a habit best performed after several cups of strong coffee, lots of Spanish banter, and maybe, if we had the time to hit the Italian market, a big ball of whole milk mozzarella cheese. (I still feel pretty strongly that the Italian side of my family encouraged the use of mozzarella because it just doesn’t exist in Honduras, but my Latin family cooked with it like it had been part of our life for generations.)
When the mozzarella hit the table, we knew it was one of THOSE weekend days, the kind that would involve everything: black beans, orange rice, eggs over easy, fried plantains and a few chunks of our favorite Italian cheese. If we didn’t have the time to get the mozzarella, then a sprinkle of sharp Parmesan would do the trick well. Either way, plantains in the morning always meant we’d have far more relaxed parents and an amazing weekend.
Some things have changed and others, not so much.
For example, plantains are actually naughty carbohydrates, food not seen as particularly helpful to a healthy diet, when they really have far less sugar than bananas. Plantains are also now available all toasted up in easy to rip open bags, when cooking isn’t in the cards. And my sister’s a vegetarian now, so she can’t be the one stealing the bacon from my plate these days. (I’m talking to YOU, husband.)
Still, when my birthday weekend rolled around and I wanted to fuel my weekend, I made plantains. My mom was visiting this time around. We all woke up early, made some strong coffee and I got to frying the plantains. Sure, there was some teasing for my tendency to STILL hoard the plantains, but it was an amazing weekend.
Here’s my easy recipe for your next great weekend. Have you ever made plantains? Have you ever tasted them? I’d love to hear how you enjoy this tropical treat. Please leave your thoughts in the comments. Thank you!
- 1 or 2 ripe plantains (yellow with a few black spots, but not green)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Peel your plantain carefully. I typically take a small knife and slice from one end to the other, not letting the knife's tip dip past the skin and pierce the plantain. If I'm clumsy and haven't yet had my coffee, it might slip in just a touch, but don't cut the plantain too deeply. After that first cut from end to end, carefully peel off the skin. Slice the plantain into 1/4 inch thick coins, at an angle.
- Bring a frying pan up to medium-high heat and add the coconut oil. You're more than welcome to use any oil you prefer, but that coconut oil just meshes beautifully with this tropical treat.
- Gently place the plantain coins into the well-heated oil. The oil should sizzle when the plantain hits it. Place about half of the coins (half of 1 plantain) into the pan and cook them 3-4 minutes per side, flipping with the tines of a fork.
- Remove the plantains from the pan once they're cooked to your desired color. Some prefer a lighter touch, where the color remains vibrant and yellow. I prefer to cook them a bit longer, and bring on a lot of dark color, because that dark color forms a nice crispy texture around the edges. Place cooked plantain coins onto a plate covered with paper towels.
- Once all the plantain coins are fried and ample oil has been pulled from them, place on a serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (or salt, if you're not using cheese). If you're feeling super adventures, cut up some 1" cubes of mozzarella cheese and put them on top of the plantains. Serve and enjoy.
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