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Plantains Stuffed with Cheese

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

These “bananas", made of cooked plantain dough reformed into the shape of bananas, make a typical Veracruz evening snack, particularly in Alvarado and Tlacoialpan. Along with empanadas made of the same dough, they are prepared in the little food stands that are set up along the banks of the immense river Papaloapan. The filling is a finely crumbled, strong cheese like that made in Chiapas, or a meat picadillo.

The soft dough does pick up a lot of oil in the frying process, so it is necessary to have ready plenty of paper towels (or recycled paper bags from the supermarket, which will absorb much more efficiently). Another very effective method is to reheat them on paper toweling in the oven-as you would for chiles rellenos-and the excess oil exudes readily.The dough can be prepared several hours ahead. I do not recommend freezing.

Cooking Methodfrying

CostInexpensive

Easy

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionFamily Get-together, game day

Recipe Coursesnack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Mealsnack

Taste and Texturecreamy, crunchy, salty, sweet

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds (675 g) plantains
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • ¾ cup (185 ml) finely grated chiapas cheese (see note above) or substitute Romano

Instructions

  1. Trim the ends of the plantains, but do not peel. Cut into pieces about 5 inches (13 cm) long. Put into a saucepan, cover with water, cover, and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking over medium heat until the flesh is soft-the skin will probably split open-about 1 hour. Drain and set aside to cool.

  2. Peel the plantains, and break into the container of a food processor. Add the flour and salt and process to a fairly smooth consistency.

  3. Heat the oil in a skillet-it should be about ¾ inch (2 cm) deep-over low heat.

  4. Wet your palms a little and divide the mixture into eight equal parts. Roll one into a ball about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Press it out either with your hands or with a tortilla press lined with plastic bags to a circle about 4 inches (10 cm) across and ¼ inch (.75 cm) thick. Put about 1 scant tablespoon of the cheese across the center of the dough, but not right to the edge.

  5. Again wet or lightly oil your palms, and form the dough into a banana shape about 5 inches (13 cm) long and 1¼ inches (3.25 cm) wide. The oil should now be hot but not exceed 250°F (120°C) or the outside will brown too much while the inside is still raw.

  6. Fry two or more of the bananas, depending on the size of the pan-remember that you need plenty of room to turn them over as they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan. Fry for a few seconds, then start to roll them over from time to time until they are an even, golden brown color-10 to 12 minutes. Remove and drain. (see Notes)

  7. Serve hot for a snack.

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