Not long ago, Barrett pointed out that you can do something with plantains to make them taste delicious. It's called double frying. This is all based on a theory that if fried food is tasty, frying your fried food makes it tasty times two (or maybe tasty squared, we're still calculating the autoregressive conditional hereroskedasticity of sequential fryings). Anyhow, I took it upon myself to try the double fry at home as part of my continuing series on unhealthy (but tasty) Colombian vegetarian food.
I think it goes without saying, but be sure you are buying firm green plantains. Estimate about one per person for a side or appetizer.
These get served up as a side to just about anything: grilled meat, soup, and in some places probably sopa de patacones. That's how much they love them.
Some plantains (each will make about 5 patacones)
As Barrett pointed out, you really ought to score the skin instead of trying to peel from the top like a banana. Score it top to bottom 4 times and use the side of your thumb to peel away the outer skin (as opposed to the top of your thumb). Don't be discouraged if the first one doesn't come off so cleanly. You'll be an expert in no time.
Prepare a bowl of salt water and set aside.
Cut each plantain into 5 (or so) pieces and lay them into a pan of hot oil (cover the bottom, but not much more--it's not a deep fry). Fry for a few minutes on a side, until they turn yellow and then just a spattering of brown. Rotate with tongs or a fork to get all sides evenly fried. Remove from the oil to a strainer.
Next, use a plastic or paper bag folded over several times, a plate, your tostonera (if you've got it, flaunt it), even the plantain skins themselves to smash the plantains. Take caution (if using a method that causes your palms to be very close to the plantain) because they are fresh out of the fryer, after all. Then dip each into the bowl of salt water (or you can, of course, salt them at the very end) and back into the fryer until they are done (usually determined by the color, a nice light brown all around).
Remove to paper towel or strainer and salt (if you didn't do the salt water step above). Eat them just as is, or with a salsa of tomato, onion, cilantro, and a little jalapeño. If this seems too healthy for you and you really want to meet your maker sooner, top the hot patacones with a grated cheese of your choosing. Something bland like Mozzarella or Monterey Jack is typical. Save that expensive block of Casu Marzu for another use. Then take that whole thing and fry it one last time. I'm just kidding. Although...