Caveman Cuisine: Pulled Pig over Mashed Plantains
Plantains, or "green bananas" are a staple food in many parts of the world but in much of the United States, they are a culinary enigma. When green (unripe) plantains are starchy and possessing of a neutral flavor reminiscent of a potato. When yellow (ripe) and black (very ripe!) they are sweet and can be eaten raw like a regular banana.
Bananas and plantains are in fact the same species, but just different varieties bred for different purposes. Bananas are almost always eaten ripe and raw, while plantains are typically cooked (fried, baked, grilled, roasted, or boiled) while still unripe. Like bananas, however, plantains are a good source of potassium and other micronutrients.
Luckily for me, I live in an area where plantains are readily and cheaply available. At any of the many Hispanic or Asian grocers around town, I can pick up enough for several meals for about $1.00. If I want to save a trip to the store, there is always the option of embarking upon a little urban foraging.
Ultimately, the inspiration for this dish was the result of watching the documentary film Pururambo. In it, the film makers sought to explore the depths of Papua New Guinea and to visit isolated tribes who had never before been in contact with Europeans. Watching the film, I was interested in gleaning some insight into the diet of these hunter gatherers and was happy to see foods that I recognized.
The indigenous peoples raised pigs, and would occasionally slaughter one to supplement their regular diet of rhinoceros beetle grubs, birds, and lizards. Another staple food was, yup, green bananas, roasted over a fire.
Thus, Pulled Pig over Mashed Plantains was born.
4-5 plantains (slit lengthwise)
3-4lb pork shoulder
Dry rub (equal parts sea salt, black pepper, paprika, and a few pinches of garlic and onion powders)
1 can (~16oz) coconut water
Optional: Coconut oil or Red Palm Oil
Start the pulled pig the day before by rubbing it with generously with dry rub, covering, and refrigerating overnight.
The next day, put the pork shoulder into a crock pot or slow-cooker and add the coconut water. Set the heat to low and allow the pork to cook all day (~8hrs). About an hour before the pork is ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the plantains on a baking sheet (I like to cover mine with foil to make cleanup easier) and bake for 60min. When the plantains are done, they should have the consistency of a firm baked potato.
Remove the peels and cut the plantains into 1-2" chunks. Using a potato masher or a large spoon, mash the plantains, adding a coconut oil or red palm oil if desired.
To serve, pile some mashed plantains on a dish and spoon some of the cooking liquid over them. Add a generous heap of pulled pork and dig in.