Have you ever met a Latino who didn’t like plátanos? We may debate the stage at which we prefer them—green, half-ripened or fully-ripened to the point where non-Latinos look at them and think they need to be chucked. (We, of course, know better!) Whatever the preference, plátanos are in many ways a unifying ingredient for Hispanics, one that metaphorically identifies us. (In Cuba and the Dominican Republic, for example, to be called aplatanado is a compliment that means you’re a native, through and through.)
While cooking fully ripened plátanos—called maduros—doesn’t require much technical skill, working with the green ones to make classic tostones (called patacones in Colombia or verdes fritos in the Dominican Republic) is a little trickier.
The first secret lies in picking the plantains at the right stage of maturation—they need to be perfectly green with no more than a few small black markings, indicators that the ripening process has begun. (You can use them when they’re even less ripe, with no black markings; the result will be a tostón that’s slightly less sweet.)
The second secret is in the frying process. Tostones are famously fried twice and, for both times, the oil needs to be at just the right temperature. If it’s too cool, the plantains will absorb the oil and won’t crisp; too hot and they’ll burn before they’re cooked inside. Master these two key steps and you’ll be able to make tostones for your next family dinner or just for yourself, a delicious guilty pleasure. Here’s how:
Fried green plantains (tostones)
2 green plantains
Flaked salt (like Kosher), to taste
1. In a medium sized caldero or deep fryer, heat the oil to 325 degrees. (You should have about 3 to 4 inches of oil; add more or less if necessary, depending on caldero size.) Meanwhile, peel the plantains and cut them into 1 1/2-inch rounds. Place the sliced plantain in a bowl and cover with water while you wait for the oil to heat.
2. Use a thermometer to make sure oil arrives to 325 degrees. Drain the plantains, blotting with paper towel to dry well.
3. Carefully add the sliced plantains to the hot oil, working in small batches so as not to overcrowd the caldero, which will cause the oil’s temperature to lower. Fry the slices for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the are lightly colored and thoroughly cooked. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plantains to a flattened paper bag lined with paper towel. Leave the oil on the heat, for the the second frying.
4. Now you’re ready to flatten the plantains and turn them into tostones. Using a tostonera (a hinged, two-part contraption sold in many Latin supermarkets and even at some Macy’s and Walmarts), flatten the slices. (If you don’t have a tostonera, you can flatten them with a mallet, the back of a large spoon or by placing the slices between two sheets of brown paper bag and pressing down with the heel of the palm of your hand.) However you do it, the key is to flatten enough but not too much. They should be about 1/2-inch thick when you’re done flattening, to ensure they remain crispy on the outside and tender in the inside.
5. Raise the oil temperature to 375 degrees. Working in small batches again, return the flattened plantain slices to the oil are fry until they’re crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon, drain again on paper towel, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.