I can’t tell you the first time I ever had tostones — aka crispy, golden plantain deliciousness — but I do recall the first time I fell in love with them. It was while I was eating at a sidewalk table at Cafe Habana in New York City and I was doing my best to channel J-Lo’s style a la her If You Had My Love video.
It was an era when my main concern was how many clubs I could get on the VIP list for and which shoes would be best for dancing until the wee hours. Cafe Habana was where I’d regularly meet my girls to recap the drama of the night before, to refuel with high octane Cafe Con Leche, and to nosh on plates upon plates of cuban sandwiches, Mexican-style corn, and, of course, tostones.
So, when I saw that my friend Gaby Dalkin’s cookbook, Absolutely Avocados, had a recipes for tostones, well, I was there in a major way. This recipe makes crisp, golden tostones that rival the best of Cafe Habana but takes it one step further by topping it with an avocado, mango, red onion mix that makes tostones even more addictive.
Peel each plantain. Cut each plantain into 6 to 8 pieces. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add 6 pieces of plantain at a time and cook, turning every 30 seconds, until just golden brown. Remove the plantains from the oil with a pair of tongs and repeat this process for the remaining plantains.
When buying plantains, you want to look for a yellow plantains with a few black marks on the skin. If it's too dark and almost all black, it's too ripe to fry. If it's green, then it's not ripe enough. A yellow-black plantains is just about perfect.
Using a tortilla press, carefully press down on each piece of semi-cooked plantain until you have a 2- to-3-inch flat disk. If you don't have a tortilla press, simply press down on the semi-cooked plantain with a smal flat bottomed plate until the plantain is a 2- to-3-inch flat disk. Fry these disks in the oil for about 45 seconds on each side, until a deep golden color. Transfer the disks to a paper towel to drain; sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining plantains.
Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit form the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin, cut into 1/2-inch dice, and place in a bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin of the mango. Using a sharp knife, slice the wide flat part of the fruit off the pit. Repeat this process for the other side of the mango. Transfer the 2 mango slices to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the mango to the bowl with the avocado.
Add the lemon juice and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top each of the fried plantains with equal portions of the avocado misture. Top each tostone with a sprinkle of the red onion, and serve immediately.