Have you ever eaten plantains? I had never tasted one, until a few weeks ago when Jamie tried a recipe for Caribbean Pork Stew with Plantains from a cookbook he got for Christmas, Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Slow Cooking.
I really loved the stew... minus the plantains. The pork was tender and succulent, and the orange and brown sugar broth was rich and flavorful with garlic, cinnamon and ginger. But when it came to the plantains, they were just, well, all wrong. Granted, I expected them to taste like bananas, and while I realize they are not supposed to, that is still what I was wanting from them. But the thing is, they didn't even taste good for what they are.
They simmered in the stew during the last 30 minutes of cooking, and when we dished it up and gave the plantains a taste test, we expected something soft and full of the wonderful flavors of the stew that they should have absorbed. But instead, I got a hard, impossible-to-swallow, starchy bite that tasted like an uncooked potato. Worse than that, really. It was just awful. I literally spit it back out.
On the positive side, I would highly recommend this pork stew recipe, as it was absolutely fantastic without the plantains, so when we make it again, we'll use potatoes instead. Dried plums would be nice, or even a regular banana added right at the end would be an interesting twist.
We tried to salvage the plantains by rinsing them off and caramelizing them in a skillet with a little butter and brown sugar, thinking that all they needed was a little more cooking time, but they just seemed to get harder and more inedible the longer they cooked. Our next theory was that perhaps it was possible to overcook them, so we took our last remaining uncooked plantain, peeled and sliced it, and proceeded to caramelize it with a little more butter, brown sugar, and bourbon, just for few minutes on each side. Still inedible. I actually disliked them more than beets! Looked pretty, though.
So, if you hadn't already guessed, I am not a fan of plantains and probably won't be using them again, but I'm wondering if anyone reading this has had a similar experience with plantains, what sorts of cooking methods you've found are successful or not successful, or if you agree that they're just not something you enjoy eating, no matter how they're cooked?
Scroll down for the pork stew recipe... without plantains. :)
Caribbean Pork Stew with... Potatoes
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups orange juice
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2-3 medium potatoes, any kind
In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Meanwhile, toss the pork with the flour, salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat in the oil, about 5 minutes per batch, adding more oil as needed. Remove meat from the pot and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger, cinnamon and bay leaf and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine to deglaze the pot and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Stir in the orange juice and brown sugar.
Return the pork to the pot and cover with the lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 2-2 1/2 hours until the pork isvery tender. Occasionally skim the fat off the surface of the liquid. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
Cut the potatoes (peeled, if desired) into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot. Cover and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma.