Monday, October 15, 2012

Qué comen los vegetarianos: Colombian breakfast!

House-sitting for Colombian friends, this morning we woke up to a mostly bare fridge, save some staples: eggs, tomatoes, onions, leftover rice from the night before, and plantains. While heating up water for coffee, Felipe sauteed tomato and onion together before stirring in the eggs, a Colombian classic called huevos pericos, then fried the plantains. Breakfast on the table in 5 minutes.

Actually, the plantains would have taken longer but they had already been fried once and frozen. These were green plantains, called patacones pisaos, and they need to be twice-fried, once to flatten them and the second time to make them crispy. Patacón pisao (really pisado, but the "d" gets dropped) means stepped-on plantain. Though many people use wooden presses or the bottoms of heavy pots to flatten the plantains, Felipe's aunt literally steps on them. She puts the plantain in a plastic bag and then steps on it slowly, repeatedly, using the sole of her sandal to flatten out the plantain evenly. We find this much easier, especially with bigger patacones, and people always seem to get a kick out of watching their breakfast/lunch/dinner get stepped on. Though perfect as an accompaniment to eggs and rice, patacones are a really good vehicle for all kinds of toppings, salsa, guacamole, or even used instead of buns for sandwiches and burgers. Gluten-free, vegetarian, everything you could possibly want except for oil-free, ha.

Plantains after the first fry

Patacones Pisaos (Fried Green Plantains)

green plantains (as green as you can find, this won't work with yellow plantains) 

abundant vegetable oil for frying

Peel the plantains: use a big knife to cut of the top and tail of the plantain and then make a long vertical cut, using the knife to help you pry the skin from the plantain. You can make patacones any size you want- the ones shown here are each from half a plantain, though  you can make huge ones from whole plantains, or smaller ones if you cut the plantain into 2 or 3 inch sections.  For the patacones seen here, cut the plantains in half horizontally (like the bananas here). 

Heat a couple of inches of oil in a large pot over low heat. After a couple of minutes, add the plantains and fry until cooked through but not browned. Use tongs or a strainer to remove the plantains, then slip them one at a time into a clean plastic bag. Use your foot to slowly flatten the plantain. If the plantain breaks or is very difficult to flatten, it wasn't cooked all the way through. At this point, the flattened plantains can be frozen (well wrapped) until you're ready to use them. 
When you are ready to serve the patacones, heat the oil until it's very hot. Line a plate with paper towels and place it next to the stove. Fry the plantains one or two at a time, until they begin to brown at the edges. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot, on their own or with hogao, guacamole, shredded meat, or whatever else you have lying around.

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