Beyond the Chopped Basket: What to Make With Plantains

Show: Chopped
Onion-Crusted Plantains

So often on  Chopped we see chef contestants open their mystery baskets to find such odd, uncommon and downright scary ingredients — pre-cooked pig snout, pickled beef tongue or grasshoppers, anyone? — that it can seem nearly impossible for home cooks to put them to work in everyday meals. On other episodes, however, the ingredients are far less intimidating yet not quite familiar. That's where we come in. Each week during the brand-new season of Chopped Champions , FN Dish will break down the whats, hows and whens of an approachable, family-friendly ingredient and share deliciously simple recipes for using it, so that you can show off your best culinary chops at home. Following last Tuesday's round-1 competition, the focus is now on plantains, which made an appearance in the dessert round alongside spiral ham, water chestnuts and spiced rum.

A close cousin of the yellow banana, green plantains are similar in look and shape to the classic fruit, but instead of being peeled back and enjoyed raw at the breakfast table, they're most often cooked so that they lose their signature tough, firm bite. Plantains aren't quite as sweet as bananas, so they can be featured in savory dishes as well as sweet desserts, like they were on Champions, and they hold their shape well even when exposed to the high heat of the deep-fryer or grill. The key to successfully working with plantains at home is letting them take their time cooking. On Tuesday's Chopped episode, Chef Sean Scotese explained, "Green plantains need a lot of love. They need to be fried or boiled until they're soft and crispy." Try your hand at plantains this weekend with easy recipes from Food Network Magazine below.

Food Network Magazine takes the frying approach to tenderize plantains in its recipe for Onion-Crusted Plantains (pictured above), quick-cooking, savory bites that are ideal for game-day tailgates or pre-dinner munching. To make, just slice the plantains, coat them in a spiced milk mixture and press into fried onions, then saute until crispy. Serve these golden-brown beauties with a side of hot sauce for easy, delicious dunking.

Mojo Pork Chops With Plantains

Mojo Pork Chop_015.tif

If you'd prefer to boil the plantains, give this recipe for Mojo Pork Chops With Plantains (pictured right) a try. Here, they're treated much like mashed potatoes in that they're boiled in salted water until tender, then smashed and flavored with fruity olive oil. When served alongside cumin-marinated pork chops and a bold sauce of garlic and parsley, the warm, hearty plantains become comforting and satisfying.

Tune in to the second round of Chopped Champions on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 10pm/9c.

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