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Eating Mofongo in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Posted Jan 11 2009 5:44pm
Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!  Every year my partner Mindy and I fly to Chicago to spend turkey day with the Massaro clan.  It's an event I always look forward to, not only for the great food and company, but also to enjoy some much needed down-time amidst my busy grad-school schedule.  Right now I'm chillaxin at Melanie's house, one of Mindy's 5 sisters. The crowned pork roast is in the oven, and the two salsas I made are marinating in the fridge.  In an hour or so it will be off to the parent's to begin the feast! I think I just drooled on myself.

When I get time to relax, I begin to reminisce about the things I've done over the semester. A few weeks ago I was lucky to have the opportunity to spend time in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was awesome! I loved it!  One of the first things I wanted to do when I arrived, was venture out and sample some local foods.  Mindy and I ended up finding a great little place called El Jibarito Puerto Rico. The wait-staff were extremely friendly and helpful. I explained my gluten issues and he let me know exactly what to avoid on the menu. He seemed pretty knowledgeable about food allergies, and was happy to help me. I asked what would be one of the most traditional Puerto Rican dishes on the menu, and our waiter immediately said "Mofongo!"  So Mofongo it was!  I'm so glad too, because I absolutely loved it!  It was pure comfort food.  Mofongo is basically mashed plantain with garlic and spices, stuffed with a variety of fillings.  The mashed plantain is shaped into a bowl, then filled with things like pork, shrimp, steak, etc., and then sealed with more mashed plantain. It is traditionally served with rice and beans and salad.  I went with the waiter's recommendation, the Mofongo filled with Grilled Flank Steak ($14.95).  The spices were amazing! The steak was tender and juicy, and the mashed plantain was delicious and filling.  If you are ever in Old San Juan and you get the chance, stop by El Jibarito. You'll love it!

Here's a recipe I found that is exactly what I ate at El Jibarito. Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • 4 green plantains, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 cups gluten free beef or chicken stock
  • oil (for deep frying)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite seasoned filling (pork, beef, shrimp, etc.)
  • 1 tblsp. chopped garlic
  • Fresh ground black peppercorns 
  • Sea Salt
  • Cilantro leaves (chopped for garnish)

Cooking Directions
  1. Mix a handful of sea salt into a bowl of cold water and soak the chopped plantain. 
  2. Warm stock in a saucepan over low heat.
  3. Bring at least 1 inch of oil to around 350 degrees F. in a deep skillet.
  4. In the meantime, cook your meat/seafood until crisp. Remove from heat and drain.
  5. Remove the plantain from the water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Deep fry the plantain pieces until brown and tender (watch out for splattering!). Remove from oil. Flatten the plantain with a flat-bottomed glass bottle. Fry the plantains again for 30 seconds on each side, or until slightly crispy.
  6. While the plantains are still hot, take a wooden mortar and pestle, and smash them with the garlic, and salt & pepper (to taste).  Shape the plantain mash into a small bowl, making sure to leave a space for filling.  Fill the space with your favorite filling and seal with another layer of plantain.  Place on a plate and douse with warm stock and garnish with cilantro.
  7. Serve with rice and beans, and some salad. Turn on some salsa music, light some candles, and chow down!  

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