So rather than going into a long drawn explanation (will leave that to Wikipedia) around what plantains are and where they originate, I am just going to boil it down to this:

– from the banana “family”
– not as sweet as bananas
– must be cooked prior to eating
– several ways to prepare them
– green plantains yield savory creations
– yellow plantains result in a sweeter side dish

And I can go on and on…

Most times we cook the yellow sweet plantains at home. My 4 year old simply loves them, and they are actually quicker to prepare, especially if you just fry them. So I will post about one of the most popular ways of preparing the yellow plantains and come back with another post on how to prepare the green
variety.

Plantains

Plantains

Ingredients:
2 cups canola oil
1 plantain

Method
1. In a medium skillet, with 1″ sides, bring the oil to 160 degree temperature.
2. While the oil heats, cut both tips of the plantain, cut a slit across the length, and with your fingers slowly pry the skin apart.
3. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and fry for approximately 5-7 minutes per side.
4. Remove from the oil and place into paper towels to drain.

Plantains Frying

Plantains Frying

Sweet Fried Plantains

Sweet Fried Plantains

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Nothing says Christmas in my native Puerto Rico, like Coquito does.  For many years now my husband and other non-Latin friends have enjoyed this festive drink, and every year I am asked for the recipe.  Now that I finally gave in, and emailed the recipe to a friend, who in turn started an entire Facebook thread on it, I might as well write about it!

I like to best describe it as the Puerto Rican version of eggnog.  In my opinion it is “lighter” and better balanced than eggnog.  Also it contains raw eggs; which I know is raising some eyebrows as some of you read.  If you are against consuming raw eggs, simply cook the eggs with the evaporated milk over a double boiler, let it cool and add to the mixture before you add the rum.

I hope you enjoy Coquito as much as we do in our household, and in my island, all the way through the New Year. 

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Coquito

Ingredients – makes 1 liter
1 cup of water
12 spice cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 eggs
14 oz coconut milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup condensed milk
3/4 cup of rum

Method
1. In a small saucepan bring to a boil the water, cloves and cinnamon. Once it comes to a rapid boil, turn the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. While the spice mixture cools, in a large stainless bowl or a blender mix the eggs and the coconut milk.
3. Add the evaporated milk, condensed milk and 1/3 cup of the reduced spice mixture.
4. Add the rum and blend some more.
5. Refrigerate for one to two hours before serving.

Chef’s Notes
* Keep refrigerated for up to a month.
* Empty rum bottles are great for keeping Coquito.
* Sprinkle with a little cinnamon before serving.
* If you live in Florida and can get Don Q rum, I highly recommend it!!!

In Puerto Rico we serve this with rice, shocking, I know. However the beautiful asparagus I got at the market yesterday made the perfect side dish for them.

While the chops cooked, I turned the oven to 375 and placed a seasoned cast iron skillet in said oven, so it would come to temperature. The grill would have worked great too, just decided to go this route. Actually these were “grill perfect” asparagus as they were thick and meaty. Hopefully I can get more next week!

So to cook the asparagus, I simply drizzled them with olive oil and sea salt. Then baked them for a total of six minutes, turning them half way through the cooking time.

Garden Style Chops

Garden Style Chops

Ingredients:
2 TB olive oil
2 bone-in, center cut chops, trimmed of all fat
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped onion
2 TB minced garlic
splash of cooking sherry
2 TB tomato paste
1 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes*
1/2 of a green pepper, chopped
2 TB chopped cilantro

Method
1. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the pork chops once you have seasoned them with salt and pepper. Cook until well seared, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring a few times.
3. Add the cooking sherry to deglaze the pan. Follow with the tomato paste and the diced tomatoes and cook for two more minutes. Add green peppers.
4. Return the chops to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook for an additional 25 minutes, turning once, and adding the chopped cilantro half way through the cooking period.

*I used Rotel’s original tomatoes to add an extra zing. If you are up for some spice, definitely try it!

Goya frozen yuca
Goya frozen yuca

Yuca, or cassava, is a long and tapered root vegetable popular in Puerto Rican cuisine that is most popular around the Christmas holidays. My favorite method of preparing yuca is by simply dressing it in an onion based mojo sauce. I made this as part of the menu for my son’s baptism and it was very well received. It was there and then that I realized how the foods that I sometimes discount as being “too simple” can wow others.

Fresh yuca is hard to find in most midwest markets, but Goya sells the frozen kind, that works just as well. That is what I buy, as it saves me the time it takes to peel the fresh variety.

Making Yuca al Mojo is very simple, it will take you no more than 30 minutes from beginning to end!

Yuca al Mojo

Yuca al Mojo

Ingredients
2 lbs frozen yuca, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 TB whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white vinegar

Method:
1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, add yuca and cook for approximately 20 minutes, till fork tender. Drain, set aside to cool.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion for 10 minutes till transluscent.
3. To the skillet, add the garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
4. Add the vinegar, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Yuca contains a membrane that runs through the center of the root. After the yuca cools off, remove the membrane with a paring knife, and transfer to a serving bow.
6. Pour the onion mixture over the yuca and mix till combined.
7. Enjoy!!!