Until Brion and I had spent time living in Ecuador, I had never paid any attention to plantains. Really more of a vegetable than a fruit, plantains are larger and firmer than their banana relative but not sweet. They must be cooked to become palatable. With their bland, starchy, somewhat potato-like flavor, plantains take well to many cooking methods.
On one of the first meals we ate in a restaurant in Ecuador, I experienced the flavor of ‘patacones’. I had ordered an Ecuadorian ceviche and they were served as a side dish. The taste was like a potato chip but had almost a corn flavor. At the time I didn’t know what they were but the taste was definitely one that stayed with me.
In regions that compete for its origin, this specialty appears under two distinct names depending on the country. They are called patacones in Ecuador, Columbia, Costa Rica and Peru. In Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Haiti they are called tostones and in West Africa, just simply plantain chips.
The unripe plantain is traditionally prepared with a deep-frying method. The frying is done twice to ensure a crispy chip. You first peel the green plantains and slice them. Then the chips are fried on both sides, removed from the oil and blotted on paper towel. The tostones or patacones are now flattened somewhat and re-fried to provide extra crispiness. Salt may be used to add flavor to the chips. The thicker version (patacones) should be served hot or warm and are nice eaten with guacamole, garlic sauce, grated cheese or as a side dish.
As always, in my quest to bake rather than deep fry, I decided to make some patacones in the oven today. To add some guacamole = yum!!
Baked Patacones with Guacamole
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice plantain into 1-inch thick slices. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven & with the end of a glass, 'squash' each piece down flat. Thinner = crispier. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until crispy to your liking. Serve with guacamole.
In a small bowl, mash avocados. Add minced red onion, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Combine thoroughly & serve.
- Just for interest, the special or tradional tool used to flatten plantain slices is called a 'tostonera'.
That great little cherry tree of ours just keeps on giving. Since we have a water fountain in our yard, the birds are definitely around but there seems to be well enough cherries for them and us. As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, this fruit is not the sweetness of the well-known Bing cherry but more a semi-sweet flavor. It is just perfect for baking, jams, jellies or in a cherry liqueur.
Over the years, I have come to really enjoy the flavor of chutneys. I realize it gets a little murky when you bring up the subject of salsa, relish or chutneys. Here’s a mini clarification just for interest.
Salsa is usually mixtures of raw vegetables and/or fruits. Sometimes they contain onions, herbs and chili peppers or with just fruit and various seasonings.
Relish has the ingredients usually cut finer and are cooked with a good quantity of sweetness.
Chutney is almost always cooked and can contain fruit and vegetables. They most often are made with aromatics like ginger root, cinnamon, cloves, chilies and herbs.
All are served cold or at room temperature. Their uses are endless such as an accompaniment to grilled foods, fillings in burritos, toppings for salads or served with cheese, corn chips, pitas or crisp breads.
The flavor and gorgeous color of the cherries made a real nice chutney for these grilled chicken breasts.
We thought it might be nice to share some of the seasonal beauty we enjoyed in our yard this season. I hope you will enjoy looking at our pics. You can also view them in a larger size by going to our Facebook site: Good Food And Treasured Memories.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Fresh Cherry Chutney
In a saucepan, combine cherries, red onion, basil, balsamic vinegar, honey & salt. Bring to a gentle simmer & cook for about 3-5 minutes. Stir in cornstarch/juice mixture & simmer until slightly thickened. Remove from heat & set aside.
Between 2 sheets of plastic wrap, gently pound chicken breasts to uniform thickness. Brush both sides of breasts with olive oil; season with salt & pepper. Grill on BBQ or in a saucepan on the stove until nicely browned on each side & cooked through. Serve with Cherry Chutney.
According to legend, the Cornish game hen was actually ‘invented’. The original breeder was a woman by the name of ‘Tea’ Makowsky. At the age of 15, she moved to Paris, France finding work at both a milliner’s shop and a cheese shop. It was here she met her husband and they married in 1933. Fleeing from the Nazis, they settled in the USA. After fire destroyed their farm in 1949. the Makowskis, began experimenting and came up with a cross breed of Cornish game cocks and Plymouth Rock hens. The result was a plump little bird that matured quickly with all-white meat. In less than 5 weeks, the chicken was ready to be sold.
By the 1950’s, the Cornish Game Hen was fabulously popular. The usual weight is about 500-700 grams, which makes it ample for an individual serving. I remember in the 1970’s, Cornish game hens were considered to be a very upscale or exotic dinner and quite expensive.
I haven’t made any of these little ‘birds’ for a long time. Since its that time of year for that wonderful rhubarb, I’m pairing some Cornish hens with a rhubarb chutney. Yum!
Herb Roasted Game Hens with Rhubarb-Date Chutney
Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash & dry hens thoroughly, Divide herb pkg between hens & place inside. Rub each hen with butter or mayo. Place breast side up in a roasting pan. Roast until juices run clear & meat thermometer reads 165 F. when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken, about an hour. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
In a small, heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover & simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick but still has a small amount of liquid. Serve warm or cold with Cornish game hens.