Caramelized perfection: Baked Ripe Plantains & Bacon

Hi Everyone,

I had a totally different idea planned for this week’s column but that idea was immediately tossed aside when I popped the first piece of a caramelized-bottom of baked ripe plantain and bacon into my mouth.

Just imagine – sweet ripe plantains, lovingly hugged with salty, smoky bacon and baked until the plantain is creamy and tender, it’s natural sugars brought to life caramelizing the bottom; bacon rendered until the meaty part becomes crisp. It’s a combination of sweet and salty, creamy and crisp with the complexity of flavour that only caramelization can give. It is a perfect bite. After 4 pieces, okay 6 pieces (geez!); I reluctantly walked away. Okay, now make that 7 pieces, I just went to get another piece. I couldn’t contain myself. I am sorry. I am weak.

You know how addictive fried ripe plantains are? How we never seem to get enough? How we all “fight” for the brownest pieces? Well, add bacon to that and you’ll have a whole new addiction that’s bound to make your doctor frown and scowl at you. But it’s totally worth it. The taste memory will ease the sting of embarrassment… and you’ll have that far away look on your face as you’re transported back to that first bite.

I was thumbing through a Vincentian cookbook, the kind that’s spiral bound, no photographs except for advertisements, simple and ordinary, the kind of cookbook that many people would not even glance at. But not me, I live for cookbooks like these: they are treasure troves – filled with not just great recipes but advice, tips and good ole cooking wisdom passed down through the ages. As I thumbed through I came upon a recipe titled ‘Baked Plantains’. The rest as they say, is history.

With the holidays just around the corner, everyone is looking for ideas – for appetizers, side dishes, entrées, desserts and beverages. I think that you will find that this recipe will fit right into your holiday menu. Trust me, if your family and friends don’t remember any other part of the meal, they will remember this appetizer. The ingredients are few so be sure to get the best.

Baked Ripe Plantains & Bacon

Caramelized bottom: Baked Plantain & Bacon (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

(Adapted from The New Tropical Pot Pourri)

Yield: 21 pieces

3 ripe plantains (the plantains should be very ripe but still be able to hold its shape; get those with blackened spots)
1 (200 g) 7oz packet of bacon

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2.  Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside
3.  Peel the plantains and cut them into 1-inch rounds
4.  Cut the rashers of bacon in half
5.  Wrap each piece plantain with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick
6.  Align the bacon-wrapped plantain on the baking sheet; place it so that the meaty side of the bacon is in contact with the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottom of the plantains are caramelized and the bacon cooked through
7.  Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool. Reserve the bacon drippings for later use or discard
8.  Serve baked plantains with bacon caramelized-bottoms up for a dramatic presentation. Serve warm or at room temperature

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