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AndyTalk: Not All Bananas Are Created Equal ... Take the Plantain

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Invite the plantain to your next meal. It will be like having the banana's exotic cousin as a houseguest. At first you might be a little unsure about the whole arrangement, but after a meal together you'll wonder why you worried. The plantain is actually like a perfect houseguest. It likes to be left alone; it cooks with almost no fuss or extra ingredients; it's versatile enough to be dessert or a side dish, and, within reason, the older it gets the sweeter it becomes (unlike a houseguest).

Plantains are a starchy kind of banana, and as such they're perfect for cooking. They're like the Granny Smith apples of the banana world. The every-day banana we slice on cereal or pack with lunch is considered a dessert banana.

Until last week I'd always cooked with green plantains. My only plantain recipe was for tostones, which are something in between French fries and banana chips. I don't make them very often because I do my best to deep fry as infrequently as possible; too much oil and t too much mess.

I bought a plantain on a whim. Then I exercised patience. Before making Warm Buttered Plantains I had to let it sit on my counter and ripen to a nearly black and slightly smaller ready-to-cook piece of fruit. Unlike a standard banana, a ripe plantain is still starchy and pretty firm. After I peeled the plantain I cut it into one-inch pieces. Then I flattened the pieces, which took a surprisingly firm smack with a meat mallet. The bottom of a glass will also do the job.

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I sprinkled the smashed pieces with a little salt, and heated a skillet. I cooked them in butter, and just like pancakes a not-to-hot medium heat will keep the plantains from burning. They cook faster on the second side, again, just like pancakes. The goal is to cook the plantains until they are browned and crispy on the outside and creamy and soft inside. It takes only five to six minutes to cook them on both sides.

I squeezed some lime juice on the warm cooked plantains and woofed them down. They tasted just like a banana - one that's sweet, salty, buttery, crispy and creamy. Five minutes after I took the photo of the finished plantain there was nothing left. Again, like a perfect guest, there was also not much mess to clean up when the plantain was gone.

Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.

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