Jacqueline’s Baked Plantains with Cheese

Baked Plantain with Cheese

Recipe Submitted by Jacqueline Biscombe

Baked plantains with queso are the Puerto Rican side dish Jacqueline Biscombe makes most when out-of-towners come for dinner. Plantains are as Boricua as it gets, she explains, and she takes pride serving this family recipe to welcome friends to her island.

”Plantains are a staple at dinner parties because we’re pretty sure most people are going to like them,” Jacqueline says. ”They’re a perfect side for meats and poultry and vegetarian dishes. They’re also great with omelettes.” In fact, they’re great with just about everything. ”Anything you can do with a potato, you can do with a plantain, with different results and taste, so it’s very nice.”

Jacqueline is one of my mother’s oldest and closest friends. They’ve known each other all their lives, growing up in the same Puerto Rico neighborhood, Condado. They went to the same elementary and high school and she stood in my mother’s wedding. Jacqueline is my unofficial madrina or godmother.

She is also a tremenda cook. With thoughtful research and deep respect for the island’s heritage, Jacqueline has planned dozens of official dinners for Puerto Rican academic and cultural events. My mom and their circle of friends admire her kitchen skills.

So when Jacqueline cooks: I pay attention. Why are plantains and Puerto Ricans so extra-connected?, I ask her. Lots of other Caribbean and Latin American places grow this fruit, too. ”The plantain is very tied to our culture,” says Jacqueline. ”We have the phrase here: We Puerto Ricans have la mancha del plátano: the plantain stain—which is hard to remove.” Handling plantains leaves an orangy brown residue on your hands and anything it touches: clothes, the kitchen counter—just like being born on the island leaves a mark on Puerto Ricans that can never be washed away.

Puerto Ricans’ Love Affair with Plantains

Jacqueline likes to serve plantains at her dinner parties because they are the taste of Puerto Rican itself. They’re comforting and filling. They’re earthy and authentic. It doesn’t hurt that they’re also so simple to make. “Everyone likes them. They’re so easy to cook, they come together fast. They’re handy to have around, and they go well with everything,” Jacqueline ticks off the muchas razones plantains are a Boricua staple. Plus, plantains are something most Puerto Rican homecooks make sure is stocked. ”They keep for a long time, and you can use them at all the different stages of ripening.”

This dish—baked plantains are somewhat new to me, I’m more of a maduros and tostones person—is Jacqueline’s favorite way to eat plantains. She got the recipe from her former husband’s mother. ”It’s very easy. You cut off the two tips. You make a slit across the peel, end to end, but not all the way through. After it’s cooked, you fill that open gap with grated cheese. Parmesan or cheddar. It’s very good with Edam cheese too, but since I usually have grated Parmesan, I use that. Add the cheese, and it’s done. The heat of the plantain will do the job of melting the cheese.”

Plantains with cheese before baking.
Slice through the peel and almost all the way through the plantain itself before baking.

Of all the viandas, or starchy tropical roots vegetables and tubers, that Puerto Ricans use in their cooking, this is Jacqueline’s favorite. ”I like breadfruit a great deal, but it’s not very accessible. The plantain is.” Which is why Jacqueline makes this dish all the time—whether or not she has dinner guests. At least twice a week, ”so about 100 times a year,” she smiles. ”Maybe a little more.”

Ready to Bake Puerto Rican Plantains with Queso?

Jacqueline’s Baked Plantains With Cheese

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Jacqueline Biscombe Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

45

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 yellow plantains

  • 1 cup cheese, grated Parmesan or cheddar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Cut off a thin sliver off the top and bottom of each plantain. Slice through the skin lengthwise and halfway into the fruit below lengthwise. Do not cut all the way through and do not remove the peel.
  • Place the sliced open plantains on tin foil or on a pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven
  • Remove the pan and sprinkle ½ cup of cheese in the opening of each plantain.
  • Return the plantains to the hot but tuned-off oven for about 3 minutes, to melt the cheese.
  • Remove from the oven. With two spoons, scoop the plantains from their peels. Depending on how big each plantain is, slice in half or keep whole, and serve hot.

Notes

  • When you lift the plantain from the peel, says Jacqueline, use a fork or a couple of spoons. You want the cheese-filled plantain to look pretty on the plate, so ”don’t handle it with your bare hands. Using a spoon won’t harm the surface of the plantain and you can serve it looking nice.”

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