Banana bread, banana fritters, banana cream pie and Bananas Foster: All can be made with the cheap, yellow, Cavendish banana that dominates grocery store shelves from coast to coast. But there has been a lot of debate about how much longer mono-culture Cavendish can hold out without being affected by some form of the disease that wiped out its predecessor, the Gros Michel banana, in the ’50s. (Read the latest on that from banana-writing expert Dan Koeppel )
Big grower Chiquita says, “there’s no crisis—yet,” and that they’re working on alternative solutions. Still, curiosity—and common sense, has many chefs experimenting with flavorful, lesser-known bananas that can add nuance to banana-recipe favorites. Chefs say it’s like apples: If the only apple you knew was a Granny Smith, you’d use it. But if you then tasted the Mutsu, Braeburn, Golden and Gala, a panoply of flavor and textural possibilities would suggest themselves.
Going the savory route in Latin-food-mecca Miami, Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink talks about the rare, short-and-fat Hua Moa plantain banana he’s been frying up into tostones (fried, flattened plantain patties) instead of using regular plantains. “If this is the end of days for the standard, supermarket banana, I’m not losing any sleep,” says Schwartz. “Being in South Florida, we are lucky to have access to rare banana varieties like Hua Moa, a banana-plantain originating in the South Pacific, but now grown here.” The Hua Moa, says Schwartz, elevates pedestrian tostones—which can be very good—to a whole new crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-sweet-on the-inside level of greatness.
Makes 12 to 16 tostones
- 4 unripe hua moa plantains, peeled and sliced into 1 1/2 inch rounds
- vegetable oil for frying
- kosher salt
- The skin of the unripe fruit is easy to remove with a quick blanch. Make one shallow slit lengthwise, just through the skin. Blanch the slit plantains in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skin turns brown. Remove them and place in an ice bath. The skin will now be easy to peel and remove..
- Heat 4 inches of oil to 350 ºF in a countertop electric fryer or deep pot. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, a good way to test if the oil is hot enough is to stick the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick in it. If bubbles circle around the end, then you’re good to go.
- Fry plantain rounds all together for about 1½ minutes or just before they start to turn golden. Remove from the fryer with a slotted spoon and transfer to an aluminum bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rounds sit for 5 minutes. Leave the oil at temperature on the stovetop.
- Place one round at a time, cut side up, on the center of a lightly-oiled wooden cutting board. Using both hands on each side, take another small oiled board or flat surface and press down evenly to flatten the disc to ½ inch thick. Carefully lift the board. The plantain disc will now be about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. To remove, carefully slide a chef knife under the disc to transfer to a plate. Repeat, layering with squares of parchment paper.
- Fry the discs, this time in batches of 3 or 4, without crowding, for about 2 to 3 minutes more or until golden brown. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain. Season generously with salt and serve immediately, straight up.