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I had heard of plantains, but never eaten them (or seen them). Today, there were green plantains available at the local supermarket, and I seized the chance and got a bunch.

While various Internet sources agree that they can be cooked any old way, nearly all recipes I found include fried plantains. I don't like fried vegetables much, so I thought that I could just modify a recipe. As I have never cooked a plantain, I cannot decide which would be the proper technique to use.

I found a recipe which sounds nice. It uses fried plantain slices to create a kind of pie crust, and then the crust is filled with cheese and spices and baked (it is a savory dish).

For crust:
Heat oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add 
plantain slices and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Using slotted 
spoon, transfer slices to sheet of foil. Pat plantains with paper towels and cool. Reserve 
2 tablespoons oil from skillet for filling.

Line 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish with single layer of cooled plantains; reserve 
remaining for garnish. Using fingers, firmly press slices together to seal any gaps. 

I thought of either roasting the slices in the oven without fat, or boiling them and mashing them, then smearing the mash on the pan (thickened with starch or flour if necessary) and maybe blind baking it. Do you think these techniques would work, or do you have better ideas how to achieve something sufficiently crustlike?

Edit: The conclusion. First, I was ill some days, and the plantains ripened in this time. Seems to have had a positive effect in taste. Second, I made a pie crust with fried plantains and a jibarito (with a non-traditional filling) with roasted plantains. Both tasted quite good, and actually very similar. The roasted ones were, of course, not as greasy and much easier to make (the ones in the pan burned on the surface in seconds, despite the moderate temperature). This will be my prefered plantains cooking method from now on, provided I can find them. Just put them on a rack in the 200°C oven and roast until they get a bit golden. Very tasty.

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It's not a vegetable, it's a fruit ... and being that it's similar to a banana, you're not going to get a crispy crust from boiling and mashing, even with the blind bake ... they're just too moist. You might be able to pull off the oven roasting, but I'd still be inclined to add a little oil for better browning, like you would for roasted potatoes or oven fries. Also, be aware that green plantains are very starchy. Even when they're yellow or yellow with spots they're still pretty starchy; most fried plantain recipes wait for them to be fully black. –  Joe Mar 15 '11 at 0:10
    
Isn't this a recipe-question-no-no? I love the question but just trying to understand. Thanks. –  Zippy Mar 17 '11 at 13:36
    
@Zippy a recipe no-no would be "please give me a recipe for X", because there is no best answer for it. Here, I am giving a recipe as a starting point and asking for ideas how to change it, and this is a valid question. –  rumtscho Mar 18 '11 at 12:59
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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

This seems like a fun adventure. I'll say upfront that I've never tried what I'm about to suggest.

When I read your question title the first thing that came to mind is a Puerto Rican sandwich that is very popular in Chicago, the jibarito. It's a sandwich in which the bread has been replaced by flattened and fried plantains. I think doing something similar could yield nice results for a pie crust. You just press the peeled plantains between two cutting boards to get your desired thickness.

As far as not frying, you should also be aware that fried plantains are damn good. I've never eaten a plantain that wasn't fried. That said, if you are committed to not frying I have suggestions as well.

First, the boiling and mashing is right out. I don't think the processing you'll be doing will result in a crust that holds up at all.

Roasting, or better yet, pan frying in butter I think is the way to go. I suggest just greasing a large frying pan with butter and pan-frying the plantain over medium-low heat until done.

If pan-frying is not your thing either, I'd suggest just brushing them with melted butter and tossing in a 400 F (200 C) oven for 10-15 minutes (complete SWAG - never oven roasted plantain). With either the roasting or pan-frying method you may wish to sprinkle each buttered side with a little sugar to add a little sweetness and a nice carmelization.

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4  
It bears repeating: fried plantains are damn good! –  stephennmcdonald Mar 15 '11 at 0:35
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This sounds very much like pastelon - aka Puerto Rican comfort food. Everyone makes it a little different but no matter who makes it it's always damn good. Also good to know is that making these things is not hard - they're just unfamiliar which is not the same thing as difficult. Here's a link that seems to outline the process I know well with pictures:

http://thenoshery.com/2009/06/01/pastelon-sweet-plaintain-lasagna/

Here's another recipe: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/puerto-rican-shepherd-pie-pastelon/Detail.aspx

That said, you probably could boil and mash the plantains... you'd end up with something resembling a yellow shepherd's pie. I've had boiled plantains but not used in this way.

You'll want to peel them (Cut off both ends, slit the skin from one end to the other with a knife and remove. If it's the least bit difficult to remove the skin then they're not ripe enough. Heck, if they don't look rotten they're not ripe enough. People are not exaggerating when they say they should be black. After peeling cut them into manageable pieces, maybe 2 or 3 pieces per plantain and boil in water until they're cooked through. They'll resemble cooked banana and probably fall apart. The outsides will probably be water logged - i wouldn't worry too much about this. Also you may need more plantains to sufficiently cover the pan/pie dish with mash vs fried slices.

Also, once you've drained, mashed and assembled your invention, I'd probably cover the top of the dish with a thick layer of cheese and/or aluminum foil before baking in the oven as the mashed plantains will probably dry out in the oven and make an undesirable skin or crusty layer.

Another note, even though these are savory dishes you really do want to let the plantains ripen. The sweetness of the plantains is a wonderful contrast to the salty meat and rich cheese.

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