Saturday, September 6, 2008

Plantain Fritters

This was a fun recipe using deep frying "technique." We went at it blindly, without any research as if plantain fritters had never been made before. We also had a specific flavor profile in mind: mojo. The goal was to blend the starchy sweetness of the plantains with the citrusy tang and garlicky pungency of mojo -- a marinade associated with yummy Cuban flavors. Usually plantain get a sweet treatment, versus savory, with the addition of cinnamon, sugar, allspice and the like. We relied on some garam masala, cumin, cayenne, tons of garlic, fresh onion and lime juice to give these fritters zing, spice and depth of flavor.

We went to the DeKalb Farmer's Market and gathered 4 plantain -- a cousin of the banana -- from the bottom of the pile. While they looked a little bruised and dingy yellow, I thought they were the perfect ripeness for these fritters. As plantain ripen, they darken and the black plantains that would get tossed if they were bananas are the sweetest and softest.

Still, I wanted them to still be fairly starchy -- plantains can be almost potato like when they're barely ripe and at that point they're perfect for tostones, but I wanted to feel them give a bit when I squeezed them so that hopefully the ripening was underway and the sweetness was developing.

Also, after we got started, we learned that most plantain fritter recipes call for cooking the plantain first. We managed to circumvent this step by making small fritters, like bite sized hush puppies, by using a common teaspoon and dropping them into our Fry Daddy to deep fry them until they floated. As a note on technique, they do need to cook on both sides for even frying so be prepared to roll these little boogers over unless you make them really small.

The only other hardware we used was the food processor. If you don't have one, you can make small batches in a blender, or you can probably process this the old fashioned way with a potato masher or grater.

Finally, it was important that the plantain fritters had enough flavor to stand up on their own because they were the side to some Lime Ginger Grilled Amberjack with a salsa fresca. There was no dipping sauce except perhaps for the lime and olive oil drizzle from the salsa. I wanted these fritters to be good enough to eat without a dip or sauce, which would make the simple accouterments of cilantro leaves, sliced onion and a squeeze of fresh lime that more fantastic, fresh and flavorful.

Wow that's a lot of info if you don't know what a plantain is, much less mojo or tostones, so I've put links in along the way for you to learn more. I'm very happy with they way these turned out. We fried up four batches... and ATE four batches. We've stored the remaining batter in the fridge for future use and it seems to hold up well. I recommend freezing it if you're not going to get back to it within three days.

Plantain Fritters
4 medium-ripe plantain, peeled and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
juice from 1 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne
salt, pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides and incorporate chunks. Blend until a smooth pasty consistency.

Meanwhile heat oil in a fryer or deep pan until 350-375 degrees.

Using a kitchen teaspoon (not a measuring spoon unless you want them that small), carefully drop spoonfulls of batter into the oil. Allow to fry for a couple of minutes then carefully shake your fryer basket or use a spoon to help release the fritters from the bottom of the pan or fryer basket if they happen to stick.

As the fritters begin to float, roll them over so they can cook on both sides. After a total of about 6-7 minutes they should be done.

Remove one from the oil and allow to drain on a plate covered with paper towels. Break it open with a fork (careful it's hot!) and make sure the fritter is cooked. If so remove the remaining batch and allow to drain. If it's not done, continue cooking the fritters another few minutes and adjust your overall cooking time.