Fried plantains are a sweet prescription for gray skies

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Sweet plantains

Finished sweet plantains. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / January 2, 2014)

My computer's been out of sorts, and though I figured it was the gray skies and icy weather, I made an appointment with the doctor. He took its pulse and temperature, tapped its knees and told me it was fine. The problem, he said, was me.

He pointed to the inbox. "This is where mail comes in," he said, starchily. I nodded. "Then it's supposed to go out." I raised my brows.

I approach my digital mailbox much like my analog mail heap: rarely. I don't like to get too close, for fear of entanglement.

The guy in the genius T-shirt pointed out a little gray oval assigned to count mail. It should glow round like an apple and read something like "0." Mine stretched long, like a banana, and read "56,471." Those 56,471 pieces of mail were giving my computer a headache. I knew the feeling.

I figured we both needed a break from gray skies, icy cold and endless to-do. I made us a platter of plantains — not the fresh green kind that cook up dull and starchy. But the ripe black sort that cook up sunny sweet. "See," I said, "some things are best neglected."

My computer gave a little flicker. I promised I'd learn how to sort and file and delete. I swore I'd follow the doctor's orders. Soon.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at

Twitter @leaheskin

Sweet plantains

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Ripe plantains

Peanut oil


Flaky salt, such as Maldon


1. Choose: A plantain looks like an obese banana suffering the plague. Ripe, it should be black. It should be soft to the squish, like something hopelessly neglected.

2. Slice: Cut off the two points. Run a paring knife down the peel, making two or three long, shallow slits. Peel. Inside the flesh will be peach colored. Slice crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick disks.

3. Pan-fry: Pour oil into a cast-iron or nonstick skillet to about 1/4-inch deep. Add 2 tablespoons butter. Heat over medium (or just shy of medium). Add plantain slices, without crowding, and cook, turning a few times, until deep brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.

4. Serve: Sprinkle with a little salt. Nice with a spritz of lime.

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