Nov. 10, 2002 – A favorite Spanish dish with a definite Caribbean appeal is mofongo.
Pronounced mah-fon'-go, this dish is made of cooked plantains that are mashed using a traditional mortar and pestle and seasoned with loads of garlic plus salt, black pepper and most often pork to give it a robust flavor. The mixture can be used as a spread, or it can be rolled into little balls and deep fried.
When you make mofongo, it's important to use plantains that are just right as far as ripeness. If they're too green, the dish will be sticky; if they're too ripe, the resulting flavor will be too sweet.
Chicharron, the Hispanic word for pork cracklings, is the form of pork customarily added for flavoring. Nowadays, mofongo can take on many different variations. Bacon or lean ham might substitute for the pork. Herbs such as oregano, vegetables such as tomatoes, or the tomato-based seasoning sofrito can be added to the mashed plantains for extra flavor. Also, plantains might not be used at all; instead you can substitute another starchy vegetable such as sweet potato, breadfruit or cassava.
Although mofongo is a side dish, it also can be the base for an upscale entrée. While I was visiting Fajardo, Puerto Rico, earlier this year, my hungry eyes popped out of my head with delicious delight when I saw sumptuous shrimp piled high upon a mound of mofongo. Of course, I asked the chef to share his recipe. Here it is:
2 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 ½ oz. (about 1 cup) chicharron (pork cracklings)
½ teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup finely diced mixed bell peppers
1/4 cup finely diced Spanish onion
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon tiny capers
Dash of white wine
3 oz. tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro12 large shrimp
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the mofongo: In a large skillet, heat 2 to 3 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees F. Add the plantain pieces and fry until just golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and blot dry on paper towels. While the plantain is still hot, place in mortar or bowl and, with a pestle or masher, mash along with the chicken stock, chicharron, garlic and salt and pepper until it is somewhat paste-like. Set aside.
To make the shrimp topping: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the peppers, onion, tomatoes and capers. Sauté over high heat until caramelized. Add wine to the skillet to deglaze it. Reduce the heat to low and add the tomato sauce, cilantro and shrimp. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve mofongo with shrimp topping ladled over top.
Serves 4. Nutrition per serving: 220 calories, 11 gms fat (44 percent fat calories), 7 mg cholesterol, 495 mg sodium.
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