Smashed fried plantains topped with Cuban-style pot roast make a perfect Hanukkah appetizer. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Smashed fried plantains topped with Cuban-style pot roast make a perfect Hanukkah appetizer. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Fried plantains and Cuban-style pot roast bring new flavors to Hanukkah

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Smashed plantains that are double fried in oil are perfect for Hanukkah, and the ideal companion to a shredded, Cuban-style pot roast main course.

My sister taught me to make these twice-fried plantain slices (tostones), which she learned from her Cuban American in-laws. The pot roast is my version of the Cuban favorite ropa vieja and can be made in advance.

For a Hanukkah appetizer, place a tablespoon of meat on top of a cooked plantain and garnish with chopped olives and cilantro.

Shredded Cuban-Style Pot Roast with Olives

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast or brisket
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin, divided
  • 1½  tsp. salt, divided, plus as needed
  • 1½  tsp. ground black pepper, divided
  • 3 Tbs. oil, divided, plus extra as needed
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 2 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried, crumbled oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne, optional
  • 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. orange juice
  • 1¼  cups roughly chopped pimento-stuffed green olives, divided
  • 2 Tbs. distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley

Cut off excess fat from meat (leave a ¼-inch layer on brisket). Combine ½ tsp. cumin, ½ tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper. Rub over meat. Let sit on plate for 20 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown beef, 5 to 7 minutes a side. If necessary, cut meat in half and brown in batches. Place back on plate.

Add 1 Tbs. oil to pot. Add onions. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic. Sauté 1 to 2 minutes until golden, stirring often. Add bell pepper. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in 1½ tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, oregano, paprika and (optional) cayenne. Sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with liquid and bay leaf. Simmer. Stir in lemon and orange juice. Add beef with accumulated juices.

Return to a simmer. Spoon sauce over meat. Cover. Lower heat to keep at simmer. Simmer 2 to 4 hours until a dinner fork easily glides through. (Cook to tenderness, not time.) Every 30 minutes, spoon liquid over meat. Every hour, turn meat over in liquid.  Add ¼ cup water if pot dries out.

Remove meat to fresh plate. Let rest at least 20 minutes. Shred by hand or with two forks.

Heat uncovered pot with cooking liquid on medium high. Simmer 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally until thickened to consistency of thick pasta sauce. Stir in 1 cup olives and vinegar. Taste. Add salt if needed. Stir in meat. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reheated. Garnish with ¼ cup olives and cilantro.

Double-Fried Smashed Plantains (Tostones)

Serves 6

  • 4 large greenish-yellow plantains
  • Oil for frying
  • 1 Tbs. kosher or coarse sea salt, or as desired, optional

Cut ends off of the plantains. Score raised ridges with knife. Peel or slice off skin. (Skin will be tough.) Cut into 1-inch slices.

Heat ½ inch oil in a large, deep, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When oil bubbles around a bit of plantain, fry half the slices flat side down for 2 to 3 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. Use metal tongs to turn over. Fry 1 to 2 minutes until bottom is golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat. Turn off heat. Leave oil in pan.

Place 8-inch piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board. Place plantain slices flat side down. Cover with second piece of wrap. Whack 2 to 3 times with sauce pan bottom until flattened. Return plantain to plate. Repeat.

Reheat oil over medium-high heat. Working in 3 to 4 batches, fry the smashed plantain pieces about 2 minutes, until bottom is browned. Turn with tongs. Fry about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels. Repeat. Sprinkle with salt. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].