07-01-31_mofongo.jpgMofongo, it turns out, happens to be held in very high regard by large sections of Latin American societies. It’s revered and endeared by so many people, that my innocent approach to it in the February 2007 issue of Cuisine at Home seems so naïve. Here’s the recipe:

Makes 4 cups; Total time: 25 minutes

Cover with Water; Boil:
• 2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
• 1 yellow plantain, peeled,cut into 1-inch-thick slices

Heat and Crush:
• Drained potato mixture
• 1 black plantain, peeled, cut into 1-inch-thick slices
• 2 tsp. garlic, minced

Off Heat, Stir in:
• 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
• 1-2 tsp. chipotle in adobo, minced
• 1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
• 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• juice of half an orange
• salt to taste

Cover potatoes and yellow plantain with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes; drain. Return pot to medium heat.

Heat drained potato mixture, black plantain, and garlic in the pot, stirring and crushing with a spoon (this evaporates excess moisture). Cook until very little steam comes from the pot -- it’s okay if the plantains remain a little bit lumpy.

Off heat, stir in remaining ingredients, then season with salt.

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This recipe called out to me because I always see so many lovely sweet potatoes in my Food Coop (where I shop), at this time of year. I picked out an organic Japanese variety, with ruby-colored skin and light, almost-white flesh. I’ve never cooked a plantain, and it was about time I did, especially since I see these in the store all the time too. I always see all the colors of plantains in the store: green, yellow, black. It was simple to pick out two. As for the chipotle in adobo, I’ve had a Tupperware in the back of my fridge filled with the contents of the last can I opened months ago (still good!), and was excited to get to use some. The smoky heat of this stuff is quite unique; it’s a different sensation than that from a fresh jalapeño, for instance.

I cooked the full version of this recipe, which ends up being eight servings. Well, I then presented four servings to myself and four servings to Dave -- quite a dense heap on our plates -- and I’m afraid we barely escaped “Mofongo” poisoning! That’s too damn much Mofongo. The savvy Latins who often eat this dish tend to use it as a “dip,” in which they might drag a piece of grilled shrimp or such. Oops.

This recipe is very easy to cook and mash in the pot. The flavors of the sweet potato, plantain, and orange juice stand up against the sharpness of the chipotle in adobo, garlic, and white pepper. You can’t ignore the taste of this dish, even if you’re only supposed to use it as a starchy accompaniment to a main protein. You should try this recipe next time you want a mashed starch on the side of your plate. It’s a great alternative to the typical default options.

Do your best to eat this Mofongo as soon as it’s ready. The longer it sits, the denser it gets … and the higher your risk of Mofongo poisoning!

RECIPE: I’ll make it again … in lesser quantities
quick and easy, but don’t let it sit for long
sweet and smoky: a tasty combo

The next recipe I want to make is “Sausage and Lentils with Fennel,” from the January 2007 issue of Gourmet. Come back on Tuesday, February 20, to see how I do it.