For my first meal upon our return to Costa Rica, I ordered shrimp ceviche at Kukula, a restaurant in Quepos. The dish came with patacoñes, twice-fried green plantain chips that are golden brown and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and lightly salted. They were so good I tried to make them the next day in our condo. I used ripe plantains, and my results were disappointing. After that, I ordered them in restaurants every chance I got. Sometimes they weren’t quite as soft in the middle, but they were still very tasty.
At the end of our vacation, we stayed at Villa Decary on Lake Arenal. In 2001, Jim and I were inn sitters at this lovely B&B for two months while the owners were on vacation. Since we knew some of the staff, I was bold enough to ask for a patacoñes cooking lesson. Miguel graciously agreed. The key is to start with very green plantains.
Preparation time: 20 minutes Total time: 20 minutes
One-butt kitchen needs:
Nothing special for this one
Serves: Varies (1 plantain serves 2 to 3 people)
- Green plantains
- Avocado or canola oil
- Salt to taste
The hardest part of making patacoñes is peeling the green plantain. Really, it’s true! In Costa Rica, I learned this method. Cut off the ends of the plantains. Remove any labels on the peels. With a small, sharp knife, make four shallow slices lengthwise in the peel without cutting into the plantain itself, then pull off the strips. Sometimes the greenest peels are a bit stubborn about being separated from the starchy interior they’re protecting. I found a Wikihow page https://www.wikihow.com/Peel-a-Plantain that shows three different methods for peeling plantains.
Once you free the plantains, slice them into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces.
If you are making two or more plantains, a second skillet will make the process faster. When you flatten the slices in the next step, they may not fit into one pan. Pour enough oil into the skillet(s) to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat oil in one pan over medium-high heat. Fry plantain pieces on both sides until lightly brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove them from the pan and place them on a cutting board covered with paper towels. Gently press them under the bottom of a jar or glass until they are about 1/3-inch thick. Give the glass a slight twist if the plantains stick to the glass.
Put them in the hot oil again. Since I like them soft in the middle, they only need to cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. If you like them hard all the way through, cook them longer.
Remove to a plate with fresh paper towels, and blot the excess oil. Salt to taste. Use the patacoñes to scoop up shrimp ceviche.