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08/24/2018

~Deep-Fried Green Plantain Chips & Island Salsa Dip~

IMG_2006Bananas and plantains.  Plantains and bananas.  They resemble each other, and they're even related.   I peel and eat a banana almost every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain. By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever peeled a plantain and taken a taste, you knew immediately you were not eating a banana.  The best way for me to culinarily describe the difference:  If bananas are the sweet dessert, plantains are the savory potatoes.  In fact, throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and South America, plantains are generically referred to as "cooking bananas", and bananas are referred to as "dessert bananas".

Let's talk plantains:  Ripe or unripe, plantains are eaten cooked.

IMG_1910Like the banana, when it comes to the plantain, green denotes unripened, yellow denotes ripened, and everything in between is just another degree of ripe.  Unlike the banana, the dense, starchy plantain is almost always cooked before it's consumed -- while the fully-ripe yellow plantain can be eaten uncooked, for me, it's blandness makes it so boring, that after a bite or two, I just won't go on to finish it.  Depending on the recipe, sometimes it's desirable to choose the green, persnickity-to-peel-and-slice plantain.  Other times, you'll find the more agreeable, user-friendly mellow-yellow plantain on the ingredients list.  On this point, always follow the recipe.

For this reason, plantains are sold at all stages of culinary ripeness.  The all-green plantain can be peeled, diced and simmered in soups and stews.  A green- to- ever-so-slightly-yellow plantain can be peeled and sliced and kettle-fried until golden and crispy --  depending on how thick or thin the slices, they can be as crispy as a potato chips (chifles), or crispy-on-the-outside tender-on-the-inside and French-fry-esque (tostones).  The yellow- to- yellow-and-black-spotted plantain, when sliced to the desired thickness and sautéed will be done when it is soft throughout, golden and caramelized.  Plantains that ripen to a dark black color are well on their way to spoiling.

IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_1316 IMG_2312The riper a plantain is, the easier it is to peel and slice or dice as directed. Photos 1 & 2:  Yellow plantains are the easiest to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of skin in one spot, remove the skin with your fingertips, then slice with the knife.  Photos 3 & 4:  Green plantains range from difficult to pain-in-the-a**-difficult to peel -- use a paring knife to trim the ends, score the length of the skin in several spots, remove the skin in strips with your fingertips, then slice with a mandolin.  Photo 5:  In the event the green skin is too tough to remove in strips with fingertips, slice/section the unpeeled plantain into three-four smaller lengths, stand them up on their flat sides, and use the knife to strip the skin away from the fruit. 

Chifles (deep-fried plantain chips) are made w/green plantains. 

IMG_1951All my sources suggest that all-green plantains should never be eaten raw, and, that's probably good advice, as, it is about as palatable as any raw potato -- it's not.  That said, the green plantain is the only plantain that will get you a really crispy plantain chip -- yellow plantains, no matter how long you deep-fry them, will be soft-to-soggy.  Plantain chips have become so popular in recent years, they often replace peanuts as airline snacks.  Interestingly enough, if the green plantain has ripened just enough, to a state containing blushes of yellow on areas of the skin, plantain chips are allowed to be marketed as banana chips (the kind found in many tropical trail mixtures).

IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914 IMG_1914Specifics & tips.  Making plantain chips is straightforward.  Peeled green plantains, via the aid of a mandolin are very-thinly sliced.  The slices, about a scant 1/8"-thick, are dropped into the hot 360º corn or peanut oil of a deep-fryer or a heavy pot fitted with a candy thermometer, to deep-fry for 8-9 minutes.  Depending on their size, each plantain will yield 40-60 slices.  That said, because the slices discolor quickly after peeling, it's best to work assembly-line style, peeling and slicing one plantain at a time while the previous batch is in the fryer frying.

IMG_1328 IMG_1328 IMG_1328 IMG_1328Frying, draining & seasoning.  While oil is heating in fryer, line 1-2 baking pans with several layers of paper towels.  With the fryer basket submerged down in the oil, drop plantain chips from one plantain (40-60 chips) into the hot oil in such a manner that each one enters the oil separately (do not place chips directly in fryer basket and then submerge it).  This prevents chips from sticking together.  Close fryer lid and cook 8-9 minutes.  This will render chips crispy to very crispy, and, the chips will tip you off when they're done -- the oil around them will stop sizzling.  Carefully invert basket of chips onto the paper-towel-lined pan, quickly spread chips out in a single layer and give them a generous grind of sea salt.  The chips in the photo represent four plantains.

Please pass Joe's Island Salsa Dip w/my plantain chips:

IMG_2037Coming up with the ideal creamy dip for my plantains required pondering.  Compared to firm-textured tortilla chips, plantain chips, which are firm-textured, are tiny, which means they can't scoop up any type of loose salsa concoction.  That means the dip needs to be creamy, so it will stick to the chip -- the same principal used for the delicate-textured potato chip, except, with fresh, sweet, tropical flavors, instead of savory French onion and garlicy Hidden Valley flavors associated with dips for potato chips.  Meet my Trader Joe's Island Salsa & Sour Cream dip.

IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2 IMG_1985 2Two ingredients and a 2:1 ratio.  For ever 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe's Island Salsa, stir in 1 tablespoon sour cream.  Refrigerate for about an hour and serve chilled with plantain chips.

The best green plantain chips w/the best plantain dip:

IMG_2032Try my Sweet & Caramelized Island-Spiced Yellow Plantains too:

IMG_2126Deep-Fried Green Plantain Chips & Island Salsa Dip:  Recipe yields instructions to deep-fry as many crispy green plantain chips as you want and as much island salsa as you need.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife; cutting board; mandolin; deep-fryer; 1-2 baking pans; paper towels

IMG_1236Cook's Note:  I don't cook Caribbean food often, but when I do, it's island-style good.  Thanks to a couple of chef friends, I know just enough about this cuisine to be dangerous without straying from the core flavors. ~ Don't Worry, Be Happy: Jamaican-Style Beef Patties ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

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