If you ever see plátanos machos (plantains) that are ready to be cooked, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking they should be immediately dispatched to the compost pile. Black, spotted, and sometimes even a bit moldy, they don’t seem exactly appetizing in their raw form. As funky as they look, this is when they are at their sweetest and most flavorful. Don’t judge a plantain by its skin, or a book by its cover, someone once said.
Years ago, when the restaurant El Coleguita was still in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and so were we, we enjoyed many a pleasant Sunday afternoon meal with friends while overlooking the Bay of Banderas. Dessert was always the complimentary half plátano with a dribble of condensed milk. El Coleguita must have known how easy it is to do dessert for a hundred or more diners by serving grilled plátanos. I always passed on the too sweet condensed milk, hence my photo (from ten years ago!) shows a token drop of it.
I’m telling you this as a tip on serving dessert to a large number of people. Load up the grill or oven with dozens of plantains, and set out toppings for do-it-yourself. You don’t even have to peel the plantains. Just slit them and you will have a table of happy guests.
Once plantains are grilled, fried, or baked, their intense flavor outshines the everyday banana we eat out of hand or sliced over cereal. A spoonful of crema with queso cotija, or with cajeta (caramelized goat milk) or agave syrup to sweeten them up (as though they need any more sweetness), might have something to do with the enhanced tastiness. Russ liked the sweetness cajeta added. I liked the counterpoint of the salty cotija cheese.
Grilled Plantain — Plátano Macho Asado
- 1 plantain per person
- crema or sour cream
- cotija cheese
- cajeta or agave syrup
- Individually wrap fully ripened plantains in foil.
- Grill over medium heat with grill lid closed until tender, about 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.
- Unwrap and split skin lengthwise.
- Serve in skins with crema, cotija cheese, cajeta or agave syrup.
~ Plantain, known as plátano macho in Mexico, shares the same genus as bananas. They are normally cooked, not eaten raw. They are ready to cook when they are soft to the touch and the skin is mostly black. Cooked plantains are creamy and very sweet.
~ I grilled one plantain without wrapping in foil just to see the results. Not a good idea. The skin became almost crispy, and didn’t turn back easily when slit open.
~ Plantains can also be baked at 400 F (204 C) for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until tender. Split skin lengthwise first. Or microwaved for 6 minutes, until tender, also splitting skin first. Foil is not needed for either of these methods.
~ Cotja cheese is available in US supermarkets, as is cajeta. I believe agave syrup is also widely available now in the US. My summer visit north of the border didn’t happen this year, so I’m not up to speed on the availability of Mexican products, but generally you will find all these ingredients if you have a Mexican grocery store in your town.
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