Food Challenge #1: Moe’s Mofongo


A friend from law school responded to our plea for things to make with a suggestion for mofongo.  I will readily admit that I had to Google it, because I had never heard of it, let alone tasted it.  I found out that it’s a traditional Puerto Rican dish made from fried plantains mashed together with garlic and pork cracklings or bacon.  A few things here: (1) anything mashed together with bacon will happily become a part of my life, but (2) what are pork cracklings? Are they pork rinds like the ones they sell at convenience stores?  Or was I going to be required to make my own and seriously, who does that and how?  And (3): despite the title of this blog, I don’t actually own a pestle and mortar, which in every recipe I read for mofongo said I must have—a food processor would not do (which is fine, because I don’t have one of those either).  So this little recipe became a challenge, because I’d never tasted what I was about to make so I’d never know if I got it right, I didn’t know what one of the main ingredients was exactly and I don’t own one of the appliances crucial to the recipe (actually, two appliances, because I discovered I should also have a deep fryer).  Oh, ok… Let’s start cooking!

 

Needless to say, I didn’t have a recipe for this.  I thought I’d come upon one in Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World.  The recipe for fufu from Ghana sounded similar, but some searching on the interwebs led me to believe that these are two completely different foods with different textures and eaten in totally different ways.   My main problem was that I had no idea what the consistency of mofongo was supposed to be.  I could guess what plantain, garlic and pork would taste like together, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to have something creamy or crispy, dense or light at the end.  I thought all of the frying would leave me with crispy and dense, but then I discovered that the end result needed to be rolled into a ball that could be added to soup or eaten with a sauce, so how was crispy going to work?  Finally, one recipe said it should have the consistency of mashed (not whipped) potatoes.  I decided to go with that and hope for the best.

I made the decision that recipe integrity be damned, I was not going to schlep home a pestle and mortar and deep fryer for this one dish.  So I decided to use my blender set to chop and a deep bottomed skillet for frying.  Luckily I have a candy/deep fryer thermometer, so I could test the temperature of the oil.  I also decided to go with the bacon rather than trying to figure out the pork crackling sitch, because it was Sunday and I wanted bacon for breakfast anyway…

Green Plantain

Green Plantain

All of the recipes called for green plantain, which was readily available at the local grocery store, so yeah! for one easy part of the recipe (an aside here: plantain is not pronounced plan-tane, but plan-tin.  Trust me on this [but if you don’t believe me or my Caribbean family, dictionary.com will say it for you].  If I can stop one person from mispronouncing this word again I will feel my work in the food blog world is done).

 

So the recipe. Most of the ones I found online were the same except for one thing, which I learned late Sunday afternoon is kind of a crucial difference between the recipe working and failing miserably.  The recipe I went with the first time around—from El Boricua, a Puerto Rican newsletter (http://www.elboricua.com/mofongo.html) –said that I needed to make tostones first and then use them in my mofongo.  Tostones are basically twice-fried plantains (you fry the plantain, then press them down so they spread a bit and then fry them again). 

Tostones

Tostones

While really tasty and happy, I couldn’t get this version to stay in a ball if my culinary life depended on it. 

Extra Crispy Mofongo Before It Fell Apart...

Extra Crispy Mofongo Before It Fell Apart...

 

It was too crispy and there wasn’t nearly enough moisture to hold it together.  I thought about adding some chicken broth, but that would have involved actually having chicken broth, so, um, yeah…. I also thought that adding broth would make it soggy rather than making it moist.  There’s no way that this version would hold up in a soup or sauce without falling apart, but I could see substituting it for breadcrumbs on chicken or fish or a roast.

I decided to do the recipe again, but skipped the second frying of the plantains and that led me to as close to a mofongo as I think I’ll get until I taste a professional version and try it again.  It was much easier the second time around, and the flavors and texture seemed right. 

Is this the real deal?

Is this the real deal?

 I got the mashed potato consistency after about 10 seconds in the blender and was able to roll it into balls with no problem.  I didn’t try dropping them into soup to see how they’d hold up, but I think it’d work.  I leave it up to Moe to test and let me know if I’m even close…

 

 

Mofongo (compilation of recipes)

 

  • 3 green plantains
  • 1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt
  1. Heat vegetable oil to 350 degrees in deep bottomed skillet over medium high heat [it took mine about 8-10 minutes to heat up]
  2. Meanwhile, peel plantain and slice into even rounds
  3. Fry plantain over medium heat until golden, but still soft in the middle [about 5-6 minutes. I flipped them over a few times].  Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel
  4. While still warm, add the plantain, bacon and garlic to blender and blend (on chop) for 5-10 seconds.
  5. Scoop out into bowl, taste for seasoning.  Form meatball size balls and serve immediately as a side dish or in soup.
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7 Responses to Food Challenge #1: Moe’s Mofongo

  1. Moe says:

    You are awesome. The second and third picture resemble what you get in a lot of restaurants down here. I’ve also had it where the mofongo is served in the mortar which forms a sort bowl for the sauced shrimp/stew/other meat that you would then put on top. Pork cracklings are the same as pork rinds (chicharrones) and I think that’s how I’ve had it. I’m sure bacon makes for a tastier version. I’m going to try this next weekend though it’s tempting to go to Jimmy’Z ( http://www.jimmyzkitchen.com/) and save myself the trouble. I too am sans M & P. I actually asked you to make the mofongo specifically thinking how appropriate it was considering the title of your blog, oh well. Escape the cold to Miami and we’ll hit Papa Rudy’s, Benny’s or the aforementioned Jimmy’z to get the professional stuff. Though it should be noted that your picture is a replica of the mofongo on the Jimmy’z website. Well done. Now, how did it taste?

  2. avanfleet says:

    Heather:

    Your blogs are heartbreakingly beautiful and sometimes funny. I love reading them. Your recipes are ambitious and I enjoy your results, vicariously. The photos that go along with your writing are stunning. Keep going.

  3. pestlemortar says:

    Moe, you’ll have to let me know if it worked for you. I really liked it, and imagine that it’s a great side to something else. I hope that offer to come to Miami stands, b/c it’s already in the 30s here…

  4. Moe says:

    Unfortunately, we left South Beach for the burbs a few years ago, but we will gladly spend our weekend days and evenings down there if you’re in town. I think there are some pretty good deals, crappy economy and all. Come visit and the mofongo is on me.

  5. Pingback: Food Challenge #3: Kala’s Quinoa Pudding « Pestle Mortar

  6. Pingback: Challenge #2: Heidi’s Creamless Cream of Mushroom Soup « Pestle Mortar

  7. Hi!

    Liked your mofongo. Mofongo is a Caribbean traditional food and as traditional in Dominican Republic as it is in Puerto Rico (or more)

    The original recipe involves actually putting the plantains in the oven. But it takes a long time, so people just fry them. In the original recipe we also use lard to fry the plantains. Pork cracklings are ideal, but we also use shrimp. (I’ve even used fish) and then, we do use some chicken broth or sancocho to add some moisture.

    Hope you enjoyed your mofongo. I have a recipe here in cook eat share for a fish mofongo.

    Please do feel welcome to take a look at my site, which is mostly about caribbean food. (http://elfogoncito.net)

    Regards!
    Arturo Feliz-Camilo

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