Monday, 5 January 2015

New Year: New Fruits and Vegetables

I had the good fortune to spend a day shopping with my Dad, on his recent visit to Kelowna for the holidays.  One stop included a shop at a grocery store, where for some odd reason, the plantains caught my eye.  I am fairly certain that I have walked past these hundreds of times before and took no interest in them.  Listening to my gut, I picked one up, examined it, and put it in our cart.  My Dad asked what I was going to do with it, and I replied that I was not sure, yet.  I had never bought or prepared a plantain before.  I did not even know if you ate them raw or cooked.  I had tried plantain chips a couple of times in my past, and they were fine.  Exploring a new food seemed perfect for my new recipe resolution.

So began my research journey....I started by asking a few people around me, who like me had only had plantain chips that were commercially made or unlike me had tried them fried.  Taking the advice of my support network, I decided to do what everyone else does and "just google it".  To my surprise, the number of recipes online was overwhelming.  Then began my internal struggle...should I be plain and just bake it like a potato?  I figured that if someone was trying a potato for the first time, they would not jump into scalloped potatoes or potato dumplings.  I would probably advise a first time potato eater to try them mashed,  baked,  or roasted.  My gut was telling me that I needed to try something a bit more advanced, although my head was saying to try it baked just to get the flavour of the plantain.   I blame the recipe I found for a chicken breast stuffed with chorizo and looked spectatcular!  So, I returned to the store to buy another plantain.  I decided to try both.  I decided to bake one plantain and top it with cheese and chorizo as recommended, and I was going to make the stuffed chicken breast recipe with my other plantain.

Then began the took about a week for one plantain to ripen from a green peel to a yellow peel.   The experiment started by sampling the ripe plantain raw, just to see.  It tasted like a banana, but the texture was a bit starchier....just like I read online.  I continued by getting everything ready (mise en place) for the stuffed chicken recipe.  What surprised me most was that the plantain changed both its colour and flavour once I cooked it in the frying pan.  The colour was a vibrant yellow that looked like a piece of artwork once I added the green poblano chile and the orange/red chorizo.   I found the stuffing very easy to use as the plantain mashed up nicely.  It was very easy to stuff the breasts as compared to my usual spinach/feta concoction. is where I strayed from the recipe as I don't yet own a sous-vide cooker (hint, hint). nor did I trust that my plastic wrap was heavy duty enough for what the recipe recommended.  I simply wrapped each stuffed breast in foil and baked them.  This worked out well as I baked the other plantain in foil as well.  I left the peel on it and make a slit to add my other cheese/chorizo topping once it was baked.

The result.......I actually surprised myself!  Again, the balance of the sweeter plantain with the spiciness of the chile/chorizo was amazing!  The texture of the mashed stuffing with the chicken worked VERY well.  The bigger surprise was the baked plantain.  Now.. this one wasn't as ripe as the other as, remember, I bought it a bit later.  At any rate, it was simple and tasty.  It resembled a potato, so I can see how many places use this as their main staple.  Another satisfying meal was had as we also made a nice tossed salad to complete the meal.

So - what is the future like for plantains in the Martin household?  We have found a new staple with which to experiment.  Of course, my husband wants to try and make plantain fries with his deep fryer and maybe even a plantain latke/pancake.  He was more interested in the simple, baked plantain and its possibilities as a new staple in our home now that we both figured out we like both the flavour and texture.   I want to try the chile/chorizo/plantain stuffing in a pork tenderloin or even as a really neat perogy variation.   I would also like to try baking a plantain when it is a bit more ripe - just to see what that tastes like.   The possibilities are numerous with our new friend, the plantain.

I leave you with a challenge as you start your 2015 journey.  Perhaps the challenge will be a one time thing, or perhaps you will attempt the challenge on a weekly or monthly basis.  Whatever the case, I leave you with a question.....What new fruit and/or vegetable are you going to try?  Don't just walk on by it next time you are in the store.  Pick it up, examine it, put it in your cart or basket, and let the new experience unfold.  Who knows?   You might make a new friend!

Baked Plantain topped with cheese/chorizo in center surrounded by
Chicken breasts stuffed with chorizo, plantain, and poblano chile

The complete meal - tossed salad, baked plantain, stuffed chicken breasts
accompanied with some store bought (yet amazing) tomatillo salsa

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