Eight years ago, a friend of a friend invited me to her home and made tostones for me. I watched as she removed the plantains from their thick green peels, fried inch-thick coins of them, smooshed them flat, then fried them again. She served them with mojo – a vivid green sauce of coriander, citrus, oil, and spice – and we ate them, still radiating heat from the fryer, their dusting of sea salt crackling between our teeth.
I’ve wanted to make tostones for myself ever since, but never did – perhaps intimidated by the deep-frying (which I’ve since learned is not nearly as scary as it seems), perhaps worried mine would never turn out as well as hers did. But something shifted this month – and I knew it was time for tostones again.
It’s a cliché that food from warmer climes is an antidote to British winter’s pernicious cold and darkness, and I can see why it is. Eating these tostones (which hail from the Caribbean and other parts of Latin America, where they are sometimes known as patacones) filled me with a sunniness I hadn’t felt in months. I love the way the sweet-salty-starchy quality of the plantains is offset by the bright and citric mojo (which often features sour orange juice, though here I’ve used clementine and lime juice instead). And the fact that they’re vegan and gluten-free – but still decadently deep-fried – makes them feel like ideal January fare.
They’re also pretty much the perfect bar snack, an ideal accompaniment for beer. They’ll work brilliantly with pilsners and helles lagers, and with wheat beers like witbiers and hefeweizens. But this time, still seeking warmth, I paired them with a higher-strength Double IPA. Indie Rabble’s Wet George is an ideal choice: Pillowy of body, thanks to additions of wheat and oats, and juicy with Mosaic, Simcoe, and Amarillo hops, it’s a beer that tastes like the tropical getaway you could otherwise only dream of. Together, they feel like a postcard. “Wish you were here,” they might say, except “here” was right here at home all along.
Tostones (Twice-Fried Plantains) with Mojo Sauce
Loosely adapted from J Kenji López-Alt and Alejandra Ramos
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a snack
For the mojo sauce:
50g fresh coriander
Juice and zest of 2 limes
Juice and zest of 1 clementine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed chillis
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
100ml olive oil
For the tostones:
4 unripe, green plantains (look for green plantains with as few black blemishes as possible)
1-1.5 litres vegetable oil, for frying
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1. First, make the mojo sauce. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend on high until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin and set aside.
2. Place a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat and add enough vegetable oil to come roughly 3 inches up the sides (I used 1.5 litres for my pan). Clip a deep-fat frying/candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat the oil until it reaches 150°C.
3. While the oil is pre-heating, prepare the plantains. Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the top and bottom of each plantain, and down the length of each peel (being careful not to cut into the plantain itself). Carefully remove the thick peel. Repeat with the remaining plantains. Once the plantains are peeled, slice into 1-1½ -inch-thick pieces, on a slight bias.
4. When the oil is ready, add a batch of the plantain slices, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry for 5-6 minutes, raising and lowering the heat as needed to maintain a consistent 150°C temperature. The plantains are done when they feel lightly crispy and float to the top.
5. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the plantains to a baking tray lined with paper towels, and leave to drain and cool. Repeat with the remaining plantains. Turn off the heat but leave the oil in the pan.
6. Once all the plantains have been fried for the first time, they need to be flattened. Line a cutting board with non-stick baking paper and place a fried plantain piece on top. Cover with another sheet of non-stick baking paper. Then, using a heavy and flat-bottomed pan or glass (I used a mortar), press firmly down until the plantain has flattened into an even, ¼-inch-to-½-inch-thick round. (You can also use a tortilla press, if you have one, to flatten them.) Repeat with the remaining plantains.
7. Place a metal cooling rack over your paper-towel-lined-baking sheet. Put your pan with oil back over high heat, this time bringing the oil up to 180-190°C. Once the oil reaches temperature, add your first batch of flattened plantains, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
8. Fry for 2-3 minutes, turning the heat down or up to maintain the oil’s temperature, or until the plantains are golden-brown on both sides; stir and flip occasionally with a slotted spoon to ensure they’re browning evenly. Transfer to the cooling-rack-topped-baking-tray, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt immediately, while they’re still fresh from the fryer. (You may wish to transfer the fried plantains to a 100°C oven to keep them warm while you prepare the rest.)
9. Repeat with the remaining batches until all the plantains have been double-fried. Serve immediately, while still hot from the fryer, with mojo sauce on the side.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.