This beautiful little plate was made by Roger Baumann and the white sauce dish was made by Jim Shack. Photo by Marta Bartolomei Edmonds.
Tostones and a good plate of white rice and pink beans made by my grandma is what I call home. This side dish of twice fried plantains is as ordinary in a Puerto Rican household as french fries are here in the U.S., but I have to say that in my food memory, tostones are a delicacy, especially the way my grandma makes them.
On our last visit to Puerto Rico I asked my grandma, Mima, to teach Angelica and I to make tostones her way. She’s shown me how to make them a dozen times and I’ve watched her and helped her make them them since I was a little girl, but I still can’t manage to get them quite right. Mima’s tostones are soft on the inside and crusty on the outside with a salty crispy edge that makes them just perfect. Her secret is dipping them in salty water after they have been smashed flat.
Fried green plantains can be served as a side to almost any Latin meal. They are a wonderful side to soak up the savory juices of a flavorful asopao de pollo (Puerto Rican chicken stew). I especially love them served alongside a juicy bistek encebollado (steaks cooked in onions) or pernil (roasted pork). Tostones also make an interesting appetizer served with guacamole or stuffed with savory stewed seafood or ceviche.
A note about plantains: Plantains are a larger, starchier version of the banana and are usually sold by the piece. Grocery stores and most Latin markets will carry green plantains and ripe plantains. For tostones, pick plantains that are green or green with a hint of yellow. I prefer a plantain that is green with a hint of yellow as they will have just a hint of sweetness that is such a nice compliment to the salty exterior. Avoid using yellow plantains for this dish as a ripe plantain contains too much sugar and will burn in the first frying.
Tostones Fried Green Plantains
3 green plantains
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
canola oil for deep frying
1. Cut each plantain at either end and score them lengthwise three or four times by running your knife from one end of the plantain to the other to make a shallow line, deep enough to cut through the skin. Use your fingers to pry the hard skin from the plantain and peel. In a small bowl mix some warm water with enough salt to make the water salty, set aside.
2. Pour enough canola oil into a deep cast iron pot to make a 1″ deep pool. Heat the oil over medium heat until just a few drops of water sprinkled over the oil start crackling.
3. Slice the peeled green plantains on a slight diagonal into six even pieces. Arrange the plantain pieces in the hot oil (the oil should cover the pieces) and fry in batches until the plantain pieces are cooked. The pieces are cooked when they yield softly to a fork inserted into the plantain. Transfer the cooked pieces to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
4. Now proceed to smash the cooked plantain pieces into 1/4 inch thick wheels. Some people like to use a tostonera for this task, but I find that the flat end of a glass or bowl works just as well to flatten the tostón against your cutting board. As soon as you smash them, place them in salty water for about a half a minute to allow them to soak some of the liquid. Remove them from the salty water and pat them dry with a paper towel and immediately place them in the hot oil to fry. Please be careful as plantains with excess water might splatter.
5. Fry the tostones in batches and remove from the hot oil once crispy and golden yellow. Remove and drain once again in a plate with paper towel. Serve the tostones right away while still piping hot.
Makes 18 tostones.