Easy Mofongo with Chicken "Vaca Frita"

 
You're probably busy right now planning for mashed potatoes and stuffing and turkeys, but if you're looking to try something new for dinner this week before a big traditional Thanksgiving, I recommend you try your hand at mofongo. Mofongo is a really famous Puerto Rican dish made with fried green plantains mashed together in a pilón (like a mortar and pestle) with plenty of garlic, olive oil, and chicharrones (fried pork rinds). This isn't the most authentic mofongo, but it is garlicky and delicious. Just to make it a little easier and a little lighter, I decided to omit the chicharrones altogether. If you want to make your mofongo more decadent, though, be sure to include them or substitute some good bacon. I served my mofongo with an easy chicken "vaca frita" (fried shredded chicken with onions), done with chicken roasted in the oven rather than boiled. I'm not really into seafood (at all), but it would be even more perfect served with something stewed or saucy, like camarones enchilados, to really moisten the mofongo and bring the whole dish together. 
 
 
 
Chicken "Vaca Frita"
 
Ingredients: 
Boneless skinless chicken breast (about 2 pounds)
2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
Lime juice
Garlic powder
Onion powder, cumin, paprika
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Olive oil
 
Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
 
Coat the chicken in olive oil and season liberally with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breast. Be careful not to overcook. 

In a large bowl, shred the cooked chicken with two forks or your hands. Mix in some more garlic powder and salt. Set aside.

Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Add in the sliced onions and allow to cook until just softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Coat the pan again with olive oil and raise the temperature to medium-high.

Working in batches so that the chicken can crisp a little rather than steam, sear the chicken alongside some of the softened onions until the chicken becomes slightly browned and crispy. Squeeze some fresh lime juice on top.

Serve with mofongo and/or rice and beans.

Mofongo

 
Ingredients:
5 unripe (green) plantains*
12 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt, plus more
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp. sour cream
Oil for frying 
Cilantro (optional), for serving

Instructions:
 
Combine the garlic, olive oil, and 2 tsp. salt in a small bowl and set aside.  
 
Peel and slice the plantains into 1 inch slices. Fill a large bowl with salted water and allow the plantain slices to soak for about 20 minutes. Pat dry.
 
Pour enough a couple inches of oil into a deep skillet or Dutch oven and heat to around 350 degrees. Add the plantain slices to the oil in batches and fry the plantains for about 15 minutes or until golden.
 
Transfer the plantain slices to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to drain briefly (the longer you wait, the harder it will become to mash the plantains well).
 
Mash the plantains together with the garlic and olive oil mixture, either in a pilón, mortar and pestle, or in a large bowl with a potato masher. Mash in the lime juice and sour cream and season to taste. 
 
*The plantains shown were very hard and green. Depending on how sweet or moist you'd like your finished dish, you might want to look for plantains that are starting to ripen and yellow just a bit more. The riper the plantains, the easier they will be to peel and mash. It won't be mofongo, but you can also do a similar, equally delicious (but much sweeter) dish with fully ripened (blackened) plantains.
 
 

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