Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Plantains in Temptation Sauce

I've had plantains sitting on my counter for two weeks now, turning from a slightly yellowish-green to inky black, and so soft to the touch they feel like they could burst with a slight squeeze. That means it was finally time to make this recipe.

With regards to temptation sauce, I couldn't dig up the origin of this sweet sauce online, but it looks to be a traditional Venezuelan recipe.  Armed with my soft black plantains, I was ready to give it try.

For the plantains:
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups (1-inch thick) sliced soft black plantains*
For the sauce:
  • 3/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime rind, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
1. To prepare the plantains, heat 1 teaspoon of the canola oil in a medium skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.  Add half of the plantains; cook for 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  Remove from the pan and repeat the procedure with the remaining canola oil and plantains.  Set aside.

2. To prepare the sauce, place the sugar in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 9 to 12 minutes, until the sugar dissolves; stir as needed so the sugar dissolves evenly.

Note: The trick is to keep the sugar in an even layer in the pan, and don't let the heat creep too high. You won't see much happen until the last few minutes, when the sugar will turn golden and dissolve into a thick syrup.

3. Combine the water and sherry vinegar; carefully add to the sugar, stirring constantly (the mixture will bubble).  Continue to cook for 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves.

Note: Don't be alarmed if the sugar crystallizes for a moment. It likely will do so once the water and vinegar hit it, but then will dissolve into the liquid in the ensuing 2 minutes or so. Don't bother trying to stir; you'll just spill and slosh liquid about.

4. Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons lime rind, the cinnamon, and the cloves.  Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 25 minutes, until reduced to 1 cup. Stir in the plantains and cook for a final 2 minutes, spooning the sauce over the plantains.  Stir in the butter, keeping over the burner long enough for the butter to melt.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon lime rind as garnish.

Because I like mixing and matching cuisines, I served the plantains with an edamame and shiitake mushroom saute (which, incidentally, was delicious in the temptation sauce that ran into it on the plate). 

*I won't walk you through all the steps of how best to ripen a plantain, because whoever wrote the text at this link does so perfectly (I laugh every time). But here are just a few quick visuals:

The plantains just after purchasing, about 2 weeks away from making the recipe:

The plantains after about 1 week.  Still a week away from making the recipe:

And finally, the black, ready-to-use plantains:

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 145

Tasting Notes:
This is the most patient I've ever been with plantains, and the wait is worth it; thick, sweet slices, like a sweeter and meatier banana, with a coating of cinnamon and lime.  The temptation sauce was - yes indeed - tempting. Very strong from the sherry vinegar, but also so good you'll eat it by the spoonful, with the vinegar tamed by the sugar, silkiness from the butter, and citrusy fresh lime.  I would definitely use more plantain next time though, for a higher plantain-to-sauce ratio.


I made this again using balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar and oh my, it was instantly elevated to a "5." The balsamic was sweeter and thicker in flavor, with beautiful fig and grape notes, and actually made the plantains taste like thick banana French toast in maple syrup (I kid you not).

I also took the opportunity to slice more diagonal cuts of plantain, yielding in a larger surface area to brown in the skillet, and cooked them until more golden brown.

Fantastic changes.

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