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Eating and cooking plantain is not difficult as long as proper techniques are followed in the preparation process. This unique food, which is often enjoyed in Cuban and African cuisine, resemble bananas but cannot be eaten raw. Plantains are often fried to bring out their sweet flavor, but they can also be boiled, grilled or baked. Spices can be added to the end product to provide an additional kick. Among the best tips for cooking plantain are peeling them first and slicing them before cooking them in certain ways.
Cooking plantain properly involves peeling them first, because the peel is inedible. A sharp knife should be used to cut off both ends. Then the knife can be used to slice through the spine of the plantain. At this point, the chef can use his or her fingers to pull off the peel. If any bits of peel are stuck to the plantain, the sharp knife can be used to slice off the bits of peel.
For cooking plantain in certain traditional ways, such as frying or boiling, the pieces should be sliced first. They can be cut into pieces that are approximately an eighth of an inch (about 3 mm) thick. When cooking plantain fried, the pieces can then be placed into hot canola or vegetable oil until they are crispy and brown. Plantains are often served hot directly out of the oil with a little salt and spices, such as salt and chile powder, sprinkled on them.
Boiling plantain creates a dish similar in consistency to mashed potatoes but with a much different flavor. After being boiled until they are tender, they can be mashed with a mashing tool or a blending tool. Salt, pepper and other spices can be added to provide additional flavor. Another tip for boiled plantain is to smash it and then form it into disks. The disks can be fried in hot oil to create the South American dish known as tostones.
Grilled plantains are often served whole. After the peel is removed, they can be seasoned and placed on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side. Cooking plantain in this manner provides the plantains with a slightly smoky taste from the hot grill. When they are tender and have grill marks on both sides, they are finished.
Baked plantain is similar in texture to baked sweet potatoes. After being peeled, the plantains can be seasoned or stuffed with other ingredients and placed in a baking pan. After being roasted for approximately 30 minutes, they will have a slightly sweet caramelized flavor.
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