“Recipe: Tostones”

“Green plantains, perfect for tostones!”

I can always tell when my Cuban family is planning to make tostones, because the dad is out of the front porch in complete silence with a big knife peeling the plantains,
discarding the skins in a bag and meticulously placing the white plantains in a large pot to be rinsed later.  According to the Cubans, it is bad luck to talk to someone when they are peeling plantains…a job that requires concentration so as to not cut the fruit.

Tostones are kind of like Cuban potato chips, only way better!!!  These can be
prepared in a variety of ways.  For example, using the small, fat plantains, (burros),
you can slice them lengthwise into narrow strips. (See picture)  Or, using the large, traditional plantains (machos), you can chop the fruit into circles and smash them into disks half way through the frying process.  Either way, the end result is the same!

At large Cuban gatherings in the past, tostones were prepared in mass quantities using the same frying oil used to prepare chicharron while the pig cooked over the spit.  (Chicharron is a sinfully addictive but horribly fattening, artery-clogging, life
threatening snack that is scarily popular among Cubans…you basically take the
skin and fat of the pig and cut it into little pieces and fry it until crispy.)  At these large Cuban parties, some of the skin and fat were removed from the pig before cooking to prepare the chicharron, and the tostones were later fried in the same grease while the chicharron cooled.  Then the guests munched on tostones and chicharron while waiting for the pork and congris.

This is a great starter if you are planning on throwing a Cuban dinner party, and you can leave off the garlic and onion if you have any picky eaters coming for dinner.

“Tostones”

Tools:

  • Large sharp knife
  • Frying Pan
  • Paring knife or garlic press
  • Fork

Ingredients:

  •  GREEN Plantains (if the plantains are yellow or black they will be too sweet for tostones)
  • Oil
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic
  • Small White onion

Preparation:

  • VERY CAREFULLY peel the plantains.  Be aware that they may secrete a sticky, white/milky substance, so wash the knife and your hands thoroughly after
    peeling.
  •  Slice or cut plantains in desired manner
  • Prep garlic and onion.  Peel and chop.  Set aside.
  • Pour generous amount of oil in frying pan over medium heat (enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come at least half way up the plantains when added.)
  • Add plantains to pan a few at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  • There should not be a sound like frying bacon, only a light sizzle.  These need to cook slowly until they brown only slightly, if the oil is too high they will burn on the outside but not cook.
  • Use a fork to flip plantains once bottom begins to brown.  Remove after 1 or 2 minutes on the other side.  Place on cooling rack or plate with paper towel (to collect oil) when done.
  • When all tostones are ready, turn the flame to high and add garlic and onion to the hot oil.  Swirl oil in the pan for 30 seconds to a minute, allowing the garlic and onion to cook only slightly, but maintain their crunch.
  • Using a spoon, collect the garlic and onion with only a little oil and spoon over the tostones.
  • Serve immediately.

 

“Crisp tostones with flash-fried garlic and

 

 

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Introduction to “Food in Cuba”

 

As an enthusiastic eater of all things tasty and delicious, I am hereby dedicating an entire category of this blog to FOOD.  This section will likely have the most photographs of the categories, as taking pictures of my food is my second favorite thing…next to eating it!  Given the overwhelming popularity of food travel shows in the US, I am assuming that others share my interests in cultural food, so I will do my best to be your Anthony Bourdain here in Cuba.

History

Something interesting happens to “Cuban food” when you get to Cuba: It in no way resembles the Cuban food we get in the US!  Yes, congris (white rice cooked with black beans) is a staple.  Yes, pork in all forms and deliciously fried sweet ripe plantains are abundant.  Absent from Cuban tables, however, are the mojitos, ropa vieja, and Cuban sandwiches that exist in every state-side Cuban restaurant.  There is a myth of Cuban food throughout the US, and even the tourist hotels here on the island, insisting that food in Cuba has not changed with the times.  The harsh reality of scarcity of resources in 21st century Cuba, however, trumps this pre-revolutionary culinary fairytale.  The myth of Cuban cuisine aside, however, I am in food heaven down here!!  (Please note I said food heaven, not foodIE heaven, as I recommend that “foodies” travel elsewhere if they want a culinary tour in the Caribbean or Latin America.)

A walk of 5-10 minutes anywhere in Habana will land you smack in the middle of huge outdoor agros (markets) with selections of fresh produce that changes daily.  Yucca is a wonder food, in my opinion, and must replace the potato as the starch staple in the world.  Grapefruits here are green, garlic is tiny and avocados are GINORMOUS!  Cuban mayonnaise is homemade and garlicky and tart and delicious on Cuban bread, and mermalada de guayaba, the Cuban answer to applesauce, is an incredibly sweet treat.  (As a side note: Applesauce and Mayonnaise are the only two things I will not eat back home.)  All of this is enough to make anyone wonder why the desperate attempt in the hotels and in the US to hold on to a culinary past that is no longer the reality for today’s Cubans.

So, my dear readers, I am here to shatter the illusion of “the Cuban sandwich”, end the run of the ropa vieja, and dethrone the mojito.  It is time to replace the myth with the very yummy and very different REALITY of food in Cuba today.

Blog Topics

These posts have no rules or guidelines, if it is edible (or at least non-toxic), I will write about it!  This includes drinks, typical meals, snacks, restaurants, unique fruits, recipes, photos, the role of food in Cuban daily life and much more.  Also, as I learn my way around a Cuban kitchen, I will share photos of my concoctions and tips for anyone wanting to try their hand at home-style Cuban cooking.

Author’s Objectives

In my quest to correct misconceptions about Cuba, food is a simple yet essential step.  Most US Americans assume that Cuban food is exactly what they see in restaurants.  Many less adventurous eaters go around thinking that Cubans eat chips and salsa, tacos and enchiladas, like many of our other neighbors to the south…a rather amusing error as the tortilla as we know it in the US does not exist in Cuba, thereby eliminating any hope for tacos, burritos or the tortilla chip.  Ultimately, little steps like understanding the culinary tradition of a country and its people can bring you one step closer to understanding the culture.

Suggestions

To my readers:  Having read the introduction for this blog category, if you have a relevant topic or event that you would like to learn more about, please mention it in the ‘COMMENTS’ section of this page.  (Even if it is not in Habana, I am happy to travel to the other provinces for a good story!) I will do my best to research and write on all suggested topics.