You know I’m an unapologetic gastrotourist, right? Vacation with me, and you can forget about the museums and ancient ruins, the shopping excursions and sunset views—we’re going to spend every spare moment searching for food, people. Just ask Henry about the time I scuttled his plans for us to visit the_Galleria dell’Accademia_ in Florence so that we could hunt for the perfect bollito misto (which I happily found at Da Nerbone a few blocks away). Besides, we’d already walked past a replica of Michelangelo’s
David out on the Piazza della Signoria, and that was enough for me. That, my friends, is how I roll.
Want a more recent example? When my buddy Diana Rodgers proposed that our
families vacation together in Costa Rica, I was more excited about the food than anything else. Rather than planning excursions, I studied up on Central American cuisine, and when we arrived, I grilled our
guide, Bryan, about what and where locals like to eat.
Over the course of our week in Costa Rica, we chowed down at plenty of casual (and delicious) roadside joints, but the local favorite we
returned to night after night was Restaurant
Los Almendros. I tried a different entrée on each visit, but there was one constant: EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, we ordered an appetizer platter (or two) of the house-made fried green plantains (a.k.a. patacones or
tostones). To be honest, we tried this dish at just about every other restaurant we hit, but the crispy patacones at Los Almendros were our hands-down favorite: satisfyingly crunchy from end to end, and as big as our palms.
On our last night in Costa Rica, I asked Karen, the owner of the restaurant, how her patacones are made, and she generously filled me in. Some folks brine the plantains before frying them, and others make them smaller and thicker, but I like my patacones the Los Almendros way: no brine, pounded thin, and double-fried.
After getting back to my home kitchen (and consulting double-frying temperatures tips from Serious Eats), I tested batch after batch of patacones until I landed on my favorite way to transport my taste buds back to Costa Rica. And here it is!
Makes 10 fried green plantains
- 4 cups coconut oil, lard, or tallow (obviously, stick with coconut oil if cooking for vegan eaters)
- 4 green plantains (around 2 pounds)
- kosher salt
Here’s how to make them:
In the meantime, cut the ends off the plantains. (Tip: make sure you use super-green plantains. If you spot only ripe, splotchy, yellow-brown plantains on display at the market, be sure to ask your friendly produce guy or gal if they have some green ones in the back. They often do!)
Use a sharp knife to cut a shallow line down the length of each plantain, making sure you don’t cut into the fruit. Then, slice each plantain into three even pieces (about 2 inches in length).
Green plantain peels can be difficult to remove, but that’s what fingernails are for, am I right? Besides, if the peel comes off easily, it means your plantains are too ripe.
When the oil reaches 325˚ F, carefully lower the plantains into the shimmering fat. The oil should immediately start bubbling around the plantains as soon as it comes in contact.
Fry the plantain pieces for 3 to 5 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they turn golden yellow.
Transfer the fried plantains to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain off any excess oil.
Next, it’s time to smash.
Place a fried plantain between two pieces of parchment paper. Smash it with a meat pounder, tortilla
press, or a small cast iron skillet—or just about anything else that’s flat and heavy—until you end up with a thin (about ¼-inch thick) plantain patty. Repeat until you’ve taken out your aggression on all the fried plantain pieces.
Make sure the patties aren’t too thin; otherwise, they’ll fall apart when you fry them. But try to pound them thin enough so that they’ll get properly crunchy.
Bring the temperature of the fat up to 350˚ F, and fry the plantain pancakes in the oil until crispy,
about 5 to 7 minutes.
Don’t overcrowd the oil: fry about two to three patacones at a time.
These crunchy treats are done when you flick ’em with your fingers and they sound hard and hollow. (Pro tip: take them out of the hot oil before you flick them.)
Transfer the fried plantains to a metal cooling rack.
Sprinkle coarse salt on top, and serve immediately. Although delicious without any accoutrements, I’ve found that patacones are especially tasty when piled high with guacamole, salsa, and/or even shredded meat (e.g. Pressure
Cooker Kalua Pig!). Now, go make some!
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013) and Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017)!