Valentine Ingredients Challenge: Shallot, Plantain Banana & Chipotle Pepper
By Dennis Linden
How such a simple set of ingredients can produce such a wonderful and varied combination of flavors is exactly what cooking is all about!
This month’s featured dish comes from the kitchen of Areli Biggers in Hopkinton, MA, the winner of our annual Valentine Recipe Challenge. The challenge was to come up with a romantic dish, serving two, using at least one ingredient from each of three lists of Melissa’s product categories: Fruits
and Packaged Goods
. While Areli used even more mandatory ingredients from those lists than required, her winning recipe is a very easy to prepare, succulently sexy dessert that would definitely serve as the perfect finish to a special occasion candlelight dinner.
In fact, we gave Areli’s recipe extra points for producing the most “wow” factor, both in taste and presentation, for the least amount of fuss. Nothing breaks the romantic mood more quickly than having to pop up and down during the meal to tend to even the most perfect of desserts, or spending hours in the kitchen prior to lighting the candles! While this dish does need to be served hot right off the stove top, with a little planning the recipe can be finished off quickly and with minimal disturbance to the ambience of the occasion.
However, before getting into the scrumptious details of this winning recipe, it would be good to know a little about its creator. Since this is her culinary moment, we asked Areli to write her own bio...
“I live in the Boston area, enjoying a very busy life as a wife, mother, sister and good friend. For as long as I can remember I have always loved to cook and am especially inspired by fresh seasonal ingredients. I use a lot of spices and fresh herbs in my cooking. Cilantro, parsley, basil, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper are among my favorites. I am also passionate about my peppers, both fresh and dried. Ancho, Mira sol, posada, jalapeno, serrano, chipotles and habanero peppers are all a very big part of my kitchen. I probably use my trusted cast iron skillet and a favorite spatula almost every day as I love to create and cook new dishes for family and friends. I also love to run and have participated in 3 marathons, 5 half-marathons as well as many 5k and 10k events. I think I run to eat, though I have been cooking (and eating!) long before I took up running. I also love to take long walks with my husband, Jeff, and our dog Miley. Ha. I guess I walk to eat too!”
How such a simple set of ingredients can produce such a wonderful and varied combination of flavors is exactly what cooking is all about! Visually, the star billing of this dish are the plantain wrapper sections garnished with a devilishly red dipping sauce. However, the ingredient that wins “best in flavor” is not even on the plate. Areli’s use of the dried chipotle
to lace the orange-sweetened pomegranate juice with a lingering, smoky heat is what really sets this sauce apart. Use just a little bit of water to reconstitute the pepper, adding the liquid to the two juices along with the pepper for an even deeper smoky heat.
Though this is a very easy recipe to construct, working with the plantain itself takes some planning. Do not expect to find a ripe plantain at your local market. For a plantain
to be edible as well as peeled easily, the skin must turn a very unappetizing black. At least unappetizing from the perspective of most retailers, who are concerned with eye-appeal so normally carry and display only green or slightly yellowing fruit. Also, do not expect to take that greenish-yellow plantain home for ripening over a few days either. Plantains do not ripen like regular bananas; it takes more like 10 days at room temperature for this variety to ripen—so plan (tain) ahead of time!
It should also be mentioned that plantains can be quite large. While I purposely chose smaller fruit with the photography for this feature in mind, chances are that the reader will find much larger fruit. If that is the case, Areli suggests halving the plantain halves yet again before pressing and rolling each in a wrapper. That just means more luscious bites!
Though Areli’s recipe has only few stages to it and could be prepared from scratch relatively quickly, I would still break the process into two parts if it were my intimate dinner for two. Though it must be served hot, the cook’s time away from the table can be minimized by preparing the plantain wrap ahead of time right up, but not including, the final frying. I would also prepare the pan for that final sauté by sautéing the shallot and garlic ahead of time as well as cooking down the reduction sauce to the point of adding the cooked vegetables.
When the time comes for dessert, real-time prep involves only the very quick frying up of the readied wrapper in hot oil, which browns so quickly that one must take care not to burn the wrapper. At the same time, toss the shallot and garlic into the reduction sauce for a slow heat up while the wrapper cooks, then cools. Plate and serve immediately.
Crispy Plantain Wrapper with Pomegranate-Chipotle Dipping Sauce
By Areli Biggers
, medium diced
1 ripe Plantain Banana
, peeled, halved lengthwise (if extremely large, cut halves in half)
1 cup Pomegranate Arils
2-4 Egg Roll Wrappers
(depending upon banana size)
1 Dried Chipotle Pepper
, reconstituted in 2 oz. water (retain water)
½ Cara Cara Orange
1 Garlic Clove
3 Tablespoons Canola Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Place pomegranate juice in a small sauce pan on very low heat.
Add to this pot the orange juice, whole chipotle, chipotle-steeped water, a pinch of salt and pepper.
Turn heat to low-medium, reduce by half. Set aside.
Combine 1 Tablespoon of oil with the chopped shallot and cook for 2 minutes in a large sauté pan.
Add garlic, sauté for 2 minutes more or until shallots are tender brown, careful not to burn garlic.
Remove shallots and garlic from the pan, set aside on a small plate.
In the same pan, melt butter along with 2 Tablespoons of oil.
Add plantain halves and cook for 5 minutes per side or until they are slightly browned, cool.
Place one eggroll wrapper on a cutting board
Center a plantain section in the middle of the wrapper
Gently flatten the banana with a wooden spoon or spatula
Wrap the banana tightly in the wrapper
Sauté wrapper until slightly brown and crisp
Meanwhile, add garlic and shallots to reduction sauce and heat for plating.Plating:
Cut the wrapper in half and place on a serving tray. Top each wrapper with a drizzle of reduction sauce and garnish with whole pomegranate arils. Transfer the rest of the reduction sauce into a dipping dish to accompany the wrappers. Enjoy!