As I prepared this dish, killing time by playing Candy Crush (as I do), I had a revelation that not only makes me laugh even now, but immediately conjures up the image of my father-in-law handing out food saying “Esto no engorda” (This isn’t fattening). The last time this happened was this past Christmas when he was passing around homemade chicharron (crispy pork rinds) he made on the grill while he was preparing the Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) pig. The funny thing is, as rich as the crispy cracklings were, he was right.
But now, I have another Cuban recipe to add to that category, one that even he may not have realized is actually completely acceptable for Whole30 and those who follow the paleo and primal diets. It’s amazing how easy it is to find healthy recipes when the emphasis is simply on whole foods.
Anyway, maduros, or Cuban sweet plantains, are a staple not just in Cuban cuisine, but in most of the Caribbean, although they aren’t all prepared the same way. My mother used to make a version of a sweet plantain dish that had milk, cinnamon, and honey, and was baked. It was never really too popular in our house, but the maduros we could get at the Cuban restaurants always are! When I make sweet plantains at home, this is the recipe I use.
The other interesting thing about Cuban sweet plantains is that they also don’t really follow a recipe… you just take very very very ripe plantains and cook them in either oil or lard. I suppose you could use shortening as well, but we don’t really use that very much in our house, and I’ve never seen my mother-in-law use it when she makes maduros.
Plantains are the extra large banana-like fruits you find near the bananas in your grocery store. Green, they are used to make savory dishes like tostones and mariquitas (recipes coming soon), but when they are ripe, the natural sugars caramelize so perfectly when cooked that you don’t need to add any other sweetener. They’re sweet enough to be a warm dessert, but maduros are usually served as a side dish with the main course. You want plantains that are very yellow with lots of black spots. In fact, if you can find one that’s almost completely black without being over-ripe, it’s perfect. If you only find green plantains at your market, just keep them on the counter to ripen like bananas until they’re ready.
If you are following a specific diet, just be sure to use an approved oil like avocado to remain on your plan. I hope you enjoy these Cuban sweet plantains… porque “Esto no engorda”! 😉
- 1 1/2 lbs very ripe plantains (about two large)
- 1/2 c neutral tasting oil (like avocado)*
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet.
- Peel the plantains by trimming the ends, slicing just through the skin down one side, and removing the peel. Cut into angled slices approximately 1-1 1/2" thick.
- Place the plantains into your skillet close together, but not touching, and cook for about two minutes per side, until they are soft.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook an additional 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally until uniformly golden brown. The color comes from the sugar caramelizing as the plantains cook.
- Place on a paper-towel lined plate briefly to drain and serve immediately.
*I have heard that you may also use lard or shortening, but we always use oil.
**The best way to start this dish is to begin the cooking process at the beginning of your meal prep as they take about half an hour to make, so they'll be done by the time you've finished with everything else.