I know I have been busy...way busier than I anticipated for the beginning of 2016, but I really wanted to share this fantastic recipe with you. On my looooooong trip to Mexico in December, my head recipe researcher -and provider-...my mother in law, had a ton of small newspaper and magazine clippings that she collects for me so I can read them and decide which ones to try.
Plantain Spheres Stuffed with Red Wine
This was a tinny clipping for a Christmas wine catalogue and I loved the idea of mixing my Molecular Gastronomy list of proven recipes with the satisfaction of eating plantain, which I find irresistible. Plantain is a very common comfort food in Mexico and Centro America and if any, I recall eating them on top of Mexican rice since I was a kid until...well, my last trip. The sweetness of the plantain and its extraordinary texture has no equal. The only thing is that it takes time to prepare (and sadly most places prepare them with tons of fat which makes the unappealing).
The opportunity came soon enough for me to try this recipe as my current wife's friends... the ones who include couple of art lovers, crazy architects and some just extraordinarily nice people I know, were to have a post Christmas gathering and the wife offered to bring an appetizer. The request was done using the proper channels -the "by the way" method- and... just because I had this recipe in mind... I went for it.
The dish was a success!, no doubt, with some people asking if the center were gummy bears (really????), wine gums, uncooked something, blood...name it. That is, until they tasted them. Big big success!. O personally loved them. The problems: first I should have had my own serving dishes as I used the salad ones (sorry Val) and... they were not enough. They just went. They were consumed around the kitchen island where most of the gathering happened... I wish they had waited for the proper presentation, but hey... not always things happen as planned. At the end the satisfaction came out of the reaction of the wife's friends. The rest is history.
Plantain Spheres Stuffed with Red Wine
(Esferas de platano macho rellena de vino tinto)
Cooking Time: 45 Minutes Makes 6 servings
2 g Sodium Alginate
1/4 Tsp Calcium Lactate
2 Cups of Water (filtered)
1 Bowl with water to rinse
Silicone half-circle mould (for making chocolate or ice cubes)
1/4 Cup of sheep cheese, shredded
1 Large Plantain (whole, including peel) semi-ripe (not green but not black dotted), about 325 g.
1 Tsp Butter
2 Cups water (approx.)
1/2 Cup canola oil (for frying)*
1 Tsp Sugar
6 Tsp Bread Crumbs
-Oil to fry the plantain spheres
6 Pitted lychees
1/4 Cup Whipping Cream
2 Tbsp Anise Liqueur
- Mix the Calcium Lactate with the red wine (good quality wine) until the mix shows no powder (it is clear as the wine should be)
- Pour the Wine-Calcium Lactate mix on the half circle silicon mold (Use small mold as we want small spheres)
3. Freeze solid (about 1 hour or 1 1/2 hours in the freezer)
4. Dissolve the Sodium Alginate into a bowl with 2 cups of filtered water and blend with a hand blender. The Sodium Alginate is a bit goopy so make sure you get it all off the sides of the blender. Don’t leave any residues. The mix will look clear -a bit whitish-. Allow it to set for about 1/2 hour (by then all the bubbles and foam are gone).
5. Take the mould out of the freezer and pop the frozen “wine spheres” into the Sodium Alginate bath. Notice that if they haven’t frozen solid, put them back into the freezer because they’ll just goop up the bath.
6. Put a couple of spheres in the bath and leave for 3 minutes. The Calcium Lactate that’s suspended in the frozen liquid starts to melt and reacts with the Sodium Alginate in the bath but because it’s flexible, the casing becomes spherical and cures, trapping the wine inside of it.
7. Stir gently to keep the spheres separate with the perforated spoon and after 3 minutes put them in a bowl of water to rinse.
8. Using your perforated spoon, move the wine spheres into a special small bowl that contains some of the same wine, to keep them moist. We’ll use them from there, when needed.
Sheep Cheese Crackers
- On a piece of parchment paper, form small 2 cm. circles diameter with the shredded cheese and place in the microwave oven for 1 minute or so. The cheese will melt forming this beautiful small crackers. Reserve
1. Plantains have a variety of names that depend on geographical culture. for example “plantago”, “plátano macho”, etc. We wan to to buy 1 plantain that is ripe but not soft nor black.
2. Slice off the edges of the plantains and cut them lengthwise. Do NOT peel the plantains!
3. Put the 2 sliced plantains in a medium saucepan with approximate 2 cups of water. What we need is that the water covers the plantains and have about 1/2” of water over them. Bring it to a hard boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours until they become a bit soft but not more than that.
4. Drain the plantains, peel them and mash them (I do it with a fork) until they get a pulp consistency - a bit dry pulp though-.
5. Mix the mashed plantain with the sugar and the butter and with your hands wet (otherwise the mix will stick to your hands…) and make 6 golf size balls.
6. Using your finger make an indentation into each ball and place a wine sphere in the center of it and close it carefully with the same plantain mix.
6. Roll each ball on the bread crumb mix and reserve.
7. Using a small frying pan, medium heat, fry the plantain balls until golden (they will be crispy) and place them on a paper towel to absorb the leftover oil. Reserve.
- Using your blender, mix the whipping cream, the lychees and the anise liqueur, until you get a soft but not runny cream. Put it in the fridge to cool a bit .
- Put a tablespoon of the lychee cream on each plate (I rather use a nice texturized plate, not white!)
- On top of the lychee blob, place the plantain sphere and on top of the plantain sphere pour s small tea spoon of the lychee cream and then place the cheese cracker on top.
3. On a side drop another tablespoon of the lychee cream and carefully create a line using a knife.
* The image is not mine as I served this dish elsewhere with no time for fancy pictures. The recipe is a modification on Master Chef Josefina Lopez, from the Chapulin Restaurant, Mexico City.