This will not be the most eloquent recipe I have ever written because when I think of tostones, my brain becomes hungry, I visualize those golden rounds, imagine their sweet, salty, crispy yet melt-in-your-mouth magic, and I want to go down to the kitchen and make some. Now.
Usually, tostones are made from green plantains, but here in L.A., we are often fortunate to find platanos in stock, so I use them slightly ripe. As they ripen, they are on their way to becoming what is referred to as “sweet” or “maduro.” Once they turn black on the outside, they are often fried and served with a sweet sauce made of butter and sugar, sometimes over ice cream. However, for the best tostones, look for the greenest plantains you can find.
Plantains are a staple in many cuisines from Central America to the Caribbean, and they can be prepared many ways, but for me, I just want to talk about tostones right now. I love tostones, or as some people refer to them, “Puerto Rican French fries. Unlike French fries, tostones are so good that I don’t need to eat 50 of them. I can be happy dipping six or seven into mojo sauce, cilantro salsa or Crema Casera(I’m all about Mexican fusion!) and savoring every last crumb.
Traditionally, tostones are twice-fried and flattened. If you are a person that needs to possess every gadget known to kitchens, you can purchase a tostonera for about $5.00 at an online retailer’s site. However, you don’t need a fancy press to make these. You can press them down with a foil-wrapped saucer to prevent sticking and save some money. I don’t use either. Instead, I employ the highly unconventional method of pressing my plantain chips down with a pretty bean masher that’s made in the shape of a flower. It works, it’s quick, and it gives the tostones a little more visual interest by creating a pattern inside the discs, so why not? Besides, by using this method, I don’t have to remove them from the pan and refry them.
I use coconut oil to cook them, and they can be done in a skillet with a minimum of oil instead of deep frying in a basket. For an even healthier option, they can be baked in the oven. I will give directions for both methods.
2 ripe plantains (skin turning black)
1/2 cup coconut oil
sea salt (to taste)
Directions for Skillet Frying:
1. Peel the plantains. Cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds.
2. Melt the coconut oil in the skillet over medium – low heat (I get better results when I don’t rush them.)
3. Place plantain chips in the hot oil and fry until they turn a deeper yellow (not brown.)
4. Turn the plantain chips over. Sprinkle sparingly with sea salt.
5. Press the cooked side down lightly with your tostonera, saucer or bean masher. If they stick a bit, use a spoon to gently separate the chip from the utensil.
6. Repeat the procedure for the other side. Once the second side is darker but not quite brown, turn them over again and let cook until nicely browned.
7. Turn them once more to brown the other side.
8. Drain off the excess oil by placing your tostones on paper towel and blotting them.
9. Serve as a snack or side along with salad, mofongo, habichuelas rosadas or any favorite main course.
Directions for Oven Baking:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Prepare a baking sheet by placing parchment paper or baking paper on the bottom.
3. Cut plantains into 1/2 inch thick slices.
4. Arrange plantain slices into a single layer on the surface of the pan.
5. Brush melted coconut oil over the top surface of the slices. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.
7. Remove the baking sheet and press down the tostones with your pressing utensil of choice.
8. Flip your tostones over so the browned side is facing up. Bake for another 15 minutes or so, until the chips are a golden brown.
9. Serve as a side dish with your main course of choice.
Note: There are recipes out there that call for using canola oil, vegetable oil or a spray coating for the pan. None of these options are truly healthy. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative, and adds to the already delicious flavor of this Caribbean favorite. Extra virgin olive oil can also be used, but won’t add the flavor that coconut oil does. Also, your tostones will soak up more olive oil than coconut oil. You can see that for yourself if you try doing it both ways.
The reason I don’t fry my tostones twice because for two reasons. First, it isn’t necessary to get the same results. Second, it is my opinion that they will soak up more oil by being cooled and then re-submerged.