Did you know that October 15 is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month? Yeah, I didn’t know either until about two weeks ago when we were driving on base and saw a sign advertising a celebratory lunch buffet and keynote speaker. It turns out Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 – October 15. I may have teased Papi Chulo about this fact a little bit because, while it is 30 days…well, it isn’t exactly a month. Ah, well. I guess it just means you can celebrate for two months, if you’re feeling enthusiastic!
Around here, we don’t need an excuse to enjoy some Cuban food. In fact, I happen to know for a fact that I could serve up pork and rice with plantains or black beans 5 nights a week and they’d be eaten enthusiastically. The menu has been suggested to me! Even though we do cook a lot of Cuban comfort food, we’ve recently been trying to cut back on the amount of things we fry. We both love green plantain tostones and sweet plantains, but were getting sick of all the oil. It made the apartment smell funny, kept making a mess (even though we have a splatter screen), and just generally seemed like it couldn’t be all that good for us. A few weeks ago, I shared how to make baked green plantain chips (mariquitas), so today I’m showing you how to make sweet “fried” plantains in the oven instead of in a pan of oil. They take a few minutes longer, but they’re just as tasty and don’t make you feel nearly as guilty! You know what else is totally cool? Plantains are Paleo-friendly and make a fantastic Paleo dessert or breakfast idea in addition to a delicious side dish for pretty much any meal.
When you want to make platanos maduros, you need really ripe plantains. If they’re black, that’s totally okay as long as the inside isn’t super mushy or moldy. They should look more like this than that little patch of green plantain you can see in the background:
Honestly, they could even be a bit riper than that and the finished sweet plantains would be even tastier. It’s the super-ripe plantains that make beautiful, caramelized platanos maduros.
In case you’ve never done it before – you don’t peel a plantain like a banana. Instead, you cut the ends off:
Then you make a slit down the peel from end to end and just unwrap the plantain. This leaves the plantain ripe and ready for cutting on the diagonal into lozenge-shaped pieces.
Cutting the plantains on a diagonal is very important when you’re making platanos maduros. It maximizes the surface area available for delicious caramelization! As a side dish, one plantain is never enough for both of us, but two usually feels like a little too many. Two plantains usually fit quite nicely on a normal baking sheet without overcrowding the pieces, so this recipe calls for two plantains. You can always cook more, but I don’t recommend crowding the slices too much because they won’t caramelize as nicely. Ready to get cooking? Here we go!
- 2 very ripe plantains
- 1 tablespoon of oil (vegetable oil, coconut oil, etc.)
- Preheat your oven to 400º Fahrenheit.
- Cut your plantains on the diagonal, as shown above, into slices about ½" thick.
- Place the plantain slices in a bowl, add the oil, and toss them gently to coat them.
- Arrange the plantain slices on a baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the oven once it's heated.
- Cook for 15 minutes then carefully flip the plantains with a pair of tongs.
- Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until you're happy with the level of caramelization on both sides.
- For super delicious plantains, turn on the broiler when the plantains have about 5 more minutes of baking left. Keep a careful eye on them and remove them from the oven when the tops are looking nice and caramelized, even if the 5 minutes isn't quite up.
- Enjoy fresh and hot!
When I’m making sweet plantains (at least a once a week occurrence around here), I always use my heavy-duty aluminum baking sheet and my Silpat mat. They help ensure even cooking and caramelization, and using the mat makes cleaning the pan super simple. I think they’re a little bit of an investment, but trust me, they’re worth it. I use these two items several times every week.
I know there’s a salad in the background of these photos, but sweet plantains are a totally delicious accompaniment to lechon asado and roast mojo pork tenderloin. Or, of course, black beans and rice. =) If you’re looking for more Cuban recipes, you can see everything with that tag by following the link. If you’re looking for more Paleo recipes, you can see everything Paleo linked here. =)