Today’s installment in the “All Around Latin America” series is from my friend and blogger Eliana Ramos. We first met through our food blogs and naturally connected because of our common Latin roots. We finally met in person during BlogHer ’10 in NYC. We had a blast on our own, while we made our way through so many bloggers, few which seemed to be foodies. Since then, we’ve met a few other times in person and it’s always a delicious tryst.
Eliana is living the sweet life as author of A Chica Bakes – a blog that explores her baking adventures sprinkled with a little bit of life and Latin Flair. A self-taught baker, she loves sharing tips and tricks to help her readers live the sweet life too. Check her blog out at A Chica Bakes and @AChicaBakes on Twitter! Please help me welcome this sweet gal. -Bren
By Eliana Ramos
As much as I adore sweets, a chica can’t survive on just cookies, cake and ice cream. In fact, I’m really a meat and potatoes kind of chica. But not the traditional grilled hunk of meat and mashed taters. My familia’s version is not your average, run of the mill meat and potatoes. So when Bren asked me to share a little taste of the Dominican Republic with her readers, although my first inclination was to share a sweet creation, I instead wanted to offer something with a bit more subsistence and uber delicious of course – meat and potatoes a la Dominicana.
(Green) Plantains are a Dominican’s starch of choice. (I like to call them Dominican Republic’s National Food.) They make an appearance in just about every single meal of the day. And yes, by every meal I mean breakfast too. Growing up, my grandparents and just about all of my uncles had plantain farms in the Dominican Republic. Just before every meal was in the prep stage, my grandfather brought home a few dozen plantains cut straight from the tree just minutes before. How we ate them depended on what my grandma was feeling like that day – fried, oven roasted, boiled, mashed, baked or into a casserole – the possibilities are endless.
Two years ago I had a cocktail party at a NYC wine bar to celebrate my hubs and my elopement. The bar had a small kitchen run by a Dominican chef. One of the party hors d’oeuvres was a steak and plantain crostini that was scrumptious and it made me see plantains in a whole new light. The crostini are a play on a dish I enjoyed almost weekly growing up. It is normally prepared family style with a big plate of steak and tostones in the middle of the dinner table. But this recipe makes it super fun to entertain with; that is if you can resist eating them all yourself. (Confession – the second I finished photographing these, I ate an entire plateful.)
The recipe starts off with some thin sliced steak. It doesn’t have to be something as fancy (and pricy) as skirt steak. I actually prefer a thin sliced beef shoulder which has less fat and available at any supermarket. Marinate it in some Dominican seasoning with a splash of vinegar or lime juice – for a few hours if you can, if not, no biggie. Then let it steam in a covered sauté pan for about an hour. When it’s almost done, throw in some sliced green bell pepper and onion for extra flavor. Let the juices caramelize and voila – you’re done with the steak.
Keep your steak warm and prepare plantain at the very end as you need to serve these right after they are done. Slice the plantain at an angle about a quarter-inch thick. Then fry in vegetable or canola oil at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, turning them over about half way.
Once your plantain is done, season them with a little salt and top them with shredded steak. Garnish the crostini with a little cilantro and feel free to add a little of the caramelized onions and peppers too. I was too busy wanting to eat them so I totally spaced on the garnish. In the end, I don’t think your guests or their bellies will mind if you forget to garnish too.
* images courtesy of Eliana Ramos
STEAK & PLANTAIN CROSTINI
- 1/3 cup Dominican seasoning
- 2 tablespoons vinegar or lime juice
- 3/4 pound thin sliced steak, like beef shoulder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced
- 3 green plantains
- Vegetable or canola oil, for frying
- Kosher salt, for seasoning
Combine Dominican seasoning and vinegar and pour all over steak. If time allows, marinate for 4-6 hours. Heat up olive oil in a sauté pan and then add steak along with all of the marinade. Once the liquids come to a boil, cover the pan and let the steak steam on low heat for about an hour. Add green bell pepper and onion and increase the heat to medium. Let the liquid reduce and turn the steak to brown on both sides. Once finished, use 2 forks to shred the steak into bite-sized pieces. Keep warm and set aside.
20 minutes before you are ready to serve, peel your plantains and slice them at an angle about a quarter-inch thick. Then fry in vegetable or canola oil at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, turning them over about half way, until golden brown. Remove from oil, place on top of paper towel and season with kosher salt immediately.
Top the plantain while still hot with the shredded steak. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.