I’ve got nothing against warm vats of queso or artichoke dip, but when I think party, I think “hot chip, cool dip.” Which is why tostones, a.k.a. patacones—twice-fried plantain chips that I’m partial to dunking in a chilled, creamy, spicy cilantro sauce—are one of my all-star entertaining appetizers. As far as party foods go, they’re a winner: Tostones check off the salty-crunchy category, they’re finger-food-friendly, they’re budget-friendly (four green plantains will yield about 6–8 chips per person, plenty if you’re serving another snack or two), and they’re extremely easy to make. Most importantly, they’ll make you look like an incredible host.
Now frying might not seem like a great party trick, but there’s a difference with these. There’s no dredge, batter, or coating to deal with—just the plantain coins, the oil, and some salt. Therefore, minimal splatter, zero batter, and very few ingredients. The plantains need only a couple of minutes in the oil total, which will seem like a momentary blip if you’ve ever patiently tended to bone-in pieces of buttermilk-fried chicken. And while the mere ½ inch of oil (it's more of a shallow-fry than a deep-fry) should be at 375°, and I recommend using a digital thermometer to check, you can test without one: If a plantain slice sinks soundlessly to the bottom, the oil isn’t hot enough. If the oil is smoking, it’s too hot. If the plantain joyously bubbles and floats to the top within 10 seconds, you’re good to go.
Frying the plantains happens in two stages: During the first fry, the plantain pieces soften so that they’re smashable; during the second fry, they finish cooking through, take on a golden brown color, and get crispy. After the initial fry, squish the plantains. This step has to be done when the plantains are still very warm and pliable, otherwise the flesh will harden right back up. But once you’ve smashed, you can turn off your fry oil, set the chips aside, put away your cutting board, and wait until your first guests arrive. This timeline fits perfectly into my overarching party philosophy: If you actually want to have fun, the key is to do fewer things, and to do as much as you can ahead of time.
And my cilantro dip also helps: After blending chopped cilantro, half a chile, sour cream, fresh lime juice, a splash of water, and some salt, the tangy sauce can be poured into the bowl you want to use for serving and refrigerated for several hours (or covered, for days). Dip: done.
Not everyone has a party apron, but if you do, now’s the time to put it on. The second fry is your time to shine. The only thing better than eating freshly-fried tostones is getting to watch someone make them just for you. Everyone at a party wants to feel taken care of, and it’s so easy to do that and make your friends think you are some kind of snack sorceress when you gracefully lift just-fried tostones out of the fryer, shower them with kosher salt, and demonstrate how to dunk. Once they’re re-submerged in the same pot of hot oil, the smashed plantains, need 3 minutes to brown and crisp, and during that time, you are the star.
While saying humble, reassuring things like, “Seriously, anyone can do this!” take a look at the happy people you’ve convened. They’re excited. They’re in awe. They’re optimistic. They’re here for you. Once the tostones hit the platter, it will be their turn on center stage. That’s okay—you proved your point. Hang up your apron and grab yourself a drink. After all, it’s your party.
Get the recipe:Carla Lalli Music
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit