Monday, December 14, 2009

Plantain Hoecake Recipe

I am a Southern woman born and bred. There are few things I love more than salty pork chops and tomato gravy rice. However, one must deviate from those tried and true recipes sometimes for... something a bit different.

Figures that I'd latch onto yet another Southern tradition to fall in love with. My two children as well.

The recipe I'm about to share with you is not only Southern it has it's roots in the Caribbean island slaves' kitchens. And with the price of plantains(ugly/green bananas) right now ($.38 per!!) I'd be an idiot not to enjoy these with my family while we can.

Plantain Hoecakes/Johnny-cakes

Serves 4

You need:
  • Two plantains, the uglier the better. If you buy them while they're still pretty and unbruised then let them sit out on your kitchen counter for a few days until they're good and ugly. They'll be a bit soft to the touch usually, when they're ripe.
  • 1 cup of cornmeal.
  • Vegetable oil.
  • 1 large round skillet for the stove top + 1 glass pan for the oven.
  1. Cut the tips off the plantains. Then, take the pointy tip of a knife and make several long but shallow cuts down the length of the plantain, all the way around it. Peel the strips of skin off. This is the only easy way to do so.
  2. Slice plantains into quarter inch rounds and place them in the glass pan after it has been coated with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
  3. Bake in oven on 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and poke with a fork. The slices should be softer and have a brownish swirly pattern to them.
  5. After the plantain slices have cooled for about five minutes dump them into a bowl and using a fork, mash them up very fine. It takes some work but by cooking them in the oven your job is made much easier.
  6. Once your plantains are thoroughly mashed begin adding the cornmeal to it about an eighth of a cup at a time. Make sure you are mixing well. The more you add the thicker in consistency the mash becomes. The goal is to create a mash which you can form with your fingers into a patty. One cup of cornmeal generally does the trick for two plantains. Don't add too much more than that otherwise it'll make the cake crumble apart in the pan.
  7. Warm up your skillet just below medium heat. Add a quarter inch of vegetable oil to the pan.
  8. When oil is hot then you can start forming your cakes. One heaping tablespoon equals one cake. Scoop up some mash on your spoon and then roll it into a ball. Mash it flat and put it into pan oil. Make each cake between a quarter inch and a half an inch thick.
  9. The easiest way I've found to turn them over is with a spoon and a fork. The fork grabs and the spoon cradles it so it doesn't fall apart. Fill your pan up with little cakes and then begin turning them over. Generally it's about four minutes before the first side is done. Cook until both sides are golden brown.
  10. Gently transfer your golden brown hoecakes onto a plate which has been lined with paper towels to sop up the oil. Lightly salt the hoecakes before the oil dries.
  11. Let cool for five minutes and then... enjoy!

I think plantain hoecakes are a wonderful marriage of salty and sweet flavors. My two kids adore them and instead of considering them a side dish to the entree of the evening they really think they're dessert. Sometimes they like to put a drizzle of honey on them. It satisfies their sweet tooth and still gives them some healthy fiber. Plantains have a much lower sugar content than your average yellow bananas and yet when they are cooked they have a taste very similar to them.

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