Savory plantains weren’t on my culinary radar screen, much less something I craved. But all that has changed, now that I know about these Easy Colombian Patacones or Green Plantains. Topped with hogao, an onion and tomato condiment or guacamole, they are an amazing appetizer or side dish for any Latin-inspired meal.
The story of how I learned to cook them should give inspiration to even the most timid cooks. Yes, you can dive into making a dish knowing nothing about it, without a “real” recipe, and come out with a mouth-watering result. As long as you have the right guide(s), you’ll be just fine.
This month our Progressive Eats theme is Flavors of Latin American. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I had to look up what countries are considered in that region. The generally accepted definition is the countries in the Western Hemisphere where the inhabitants speak a Romance language. That includes the South and Central American countries, Mexico, and those in the Caribbean where the inhabitants speak Spanish or French.
Sure I have blogged about guacamole and mole from Mexico, I do love Pati Jinich, and I adore Peruvian chicken. But if Progressive Eats has done one thing for me, it’s been to push me out of my comfort zone. So, how to get an authentic Latin American recipe and learn to cook it without just looking in a cookbook?
How I Learned to Make Patagones or Green Plantains
Looking out my kitchen window, I pondered this First World problem. Then it came to me. I should consult my wonderful neighbor and friend Paula. She’s from Colombia. We enjoy talking about food and I figured she would have a family favorite I could use. Paula readily agreed to help.
She messaged me several suggestions. Ajiaco (a hearty soup), bandeja paisa (a full meal that seems similar to the Brazilian dish feijoada), and aborrajado (sweet plantain side dish) all sounded delicious. However none of them worked for this purpose. Then I went to Paula’s house to chat about my “assignment.” Although it was the night before her son’s first day of second grade and she had work in the morning, she was generous with her time and ideas. While I only intended a few minutes of conversation, she brushed my concerns aside and we talked for what seemed like hours.
As we chatted, Paula realized that patacones or green plantains would be a great choice for my blogpost. But without a cookbook recipe and describing them from memory, she felt her explanations were inadequate. What to do? Call her mother of course. Her mother would know, she said. I laughed. Close to 10 pm, Paula called her mother Emilia in Canada, where Emilia now lives. On speakerphone, her mom gave me tips and general directions, laughing and promising that we’ll cook together next time she comes to visit . With Paula chiming in on the hogao topping, I had enough to go on for my first try.
The next day I made a batch and brought them over to Paula for a taste test. After a busy day at work and putting her kids to bed, she texted me with reactions to my attempt at patacones or green plantains and a few suggestions.
My second batch was much better. Next time I see plantains in the grocery, next to the bananas, I won’t pass them by.
Tips on Making Patacones or Green Plantains
- First, the plantains you need for this recipe are the green ones. The green ones work for savory dishes like this one while the riper or yellow ones work for sweet plantain recipes. This photo shows the difference.
- For those familiar with latkes, patacones are similar in that they are both fried in oil. However, unlike the potatoes used for latkes, unripe plantains must be pre-cooked before they are fried.
- The microwaving step substitutes for the traditional way to pre-cook the plantains – frying them as cubes before smashing them. This microwave step is legit – I got it from Emilia. Microwaves differ in strength and the plantains differ in size. The object in microwaving is to slightly soften the plantains, not to turn them into mush.
- When you smash the plantains after microwaving them, try the make them thin. The resulting patacones should be somewhere between a pancake and a chip.
- Toppings for patacones are a matter of taste. In addition to the guacamole, hogao, and ropa vieja Paula suggested, she also approved of my idea of diced avocado instead of guacamole. Be creative.
- Finally, if you prefer DIY to a commercially prepared spice mixture for the hogao or ropa vieja, try this version.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Each recipe in our menu this month features the flavors of Latin America and our host this month is Karen who blogs at Karen’s Kitchen Stories.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious summer dishes!
Flavors of Latin America!
- The Caipirinha – Brazil’s Signature Cocktail – Creative Culinary
- Chimichuri Chicken Bites – The Wicked Noodle
- Yukka Enpenadas with Jalapeño Cilantro Salsa – SpiceRoots
- Pan Blanco Cuencano – Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Instant Pot Chicken Filled Arepas (gluten free) – The Heritage Cook
- Patatas Bravas Chilenas (Chile Potatoes) – From a Chef’s Kitchen
- Easy Colombian Patacones or Green Plantains – Mother Would Know
- Tres Leches Cake – That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Easy Colombian Patacones or Green Plantains
These savory bites are healthier than the traditional version and my Colombian friend says they are every bit as tasty.
Patacones or Green Plantains
- 2 green plantains
- kosher or sea salt No amount specified because you just sprinkle it over the plantains.
- 4 tablespoons oil I used canola.
- 1 tablespoon oil I used canola.
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced small Can used canned.
- 1-2 large pinches kosher or sea salt
- 1-2 large pinches Colombian or other Latin seasoning mixture. Triguisar or Sazon are commercial brands.
Patacones or Green Plantains
Slit the tips of the plantains on both ends. Then wrap them in wet paper or clean cloth towels and microwave on high for about 4-5 minutes. Then let them rest, still wrapped for another 5 minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, unwrap the plantains.
Pull them out of their skins, and slice them into rounds about 1/2-inch thick. A few at a time, place the pieces between two cutting boards (or use a clean mallet) and smash them into thin slices. Then lightly salt them.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan until it is quite hot but not smoking. Add about half of the plantain slices, lower the heat, and cook them for 4 minutes, turning halfway through. They should be lightly browned when done. Drain on paper towels
While still warm, add whatever toppings you are using (hogao, ropa vieja, gauamole, etc.) or set out patacones and toppings for everyone to put on the patacones/plantains themselves.
Hogao (Make it first, or while you make the plantains - see notes below.)
Heat the oil in a small, heavy saucepan. Then add the diced onion, lower the light and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions is quite soft and translucent.
Add the tomato, salt and seasoning. Continue cooking until the onions and tomato are basically indistinguishable.
- Be careful when unwrapping the damp towels after microwaving the plantains - they'll be hot.
- I used two cutting boards to smash the plaintains after microwaving them. Using a small board on top, I rotated it slightly to get them a bit thinner than simply pressing the cutting boards together. Slipping a metal spatula underneath helped to pull the flattened plantain off the bottom cutting board.
- You can add shredded beef, chicken, or pork to some or all of the hogao to make what Paula called a ropa vieja topping. I made the hogao and let it simmer while I smashed the plantains and began to cook them. When I thought the hogao was done, I turned off the light under it and let the mixture sit, unattended, while I continued to cook the plantains. If you're not into multi-tasking, finish the hogao first, so the patacones don't get cold while you cook the hogao.