Last week it reached 70° in New England which for mid-March is something of a very late Christmas miracle. With the sun in full swing (that’s a term, right?), the buzz of spring in the air, and flip-flops on my feet, some friends and I headed down to Miller’s Pond near Wesleyan for a picnic. We packed eggplant sandwiches with pesto yogurt on bagels, applesauce cookies, and iced tea. Except for a few dog walkers we were the only people there and it felt like we were getting a sneak-peak of summer all to ourselves. Score.
Something changes when the thermometer reaches 70° for the first time in spring. Your thoughts start to change. You think things like:
“Oh yeah, this is what summer kinda feels like.”
“Oh yeah, when it’s still light out and warm at 7pm, I’m a happier person.”
“Oh yeah, flip-flops and shorts are the best.”
“Oh yeah, it’s probably only this warm because of global warming. Great, we’re fucked.”
You know, things like that.
Most of Wesleyan is on spring break but I’m still here along with some friends working on my thesis (it’s on Italian-American cuisine). With the campus quiet and the weather this nice, it really does feel like a vacation, even if I’m sometimes stuck in my thesis carrell at three o’clock on a gorgeous afternoon. And it means that I have plenty of time for my favorite past time: cooking (fine, cooking and eating). And cooking up dishes for spring seems like just the thing to do. With local produce still a few weeks away in New England, why not try this mofongo sandwich from Puerto Rico? It’ll be sure to hit the [spring-fever] spot.
Two weeks ago at the Wesleyan Farmers Market, my roommate and I sold these mofongo sandwiches. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish of fried, smashed plantians served with meat or seafood and broth. For our adaptation, we fried and smashed some plantains and served it with a creamy, spicy sofrito of onions, peppers, chilis, bay leaves, and sour cream along with slices of avocado. It’s a juicy, complex sandwich with layer upon layer of bright, spicy flavors.
Will Levitt is a senior at Wesleyan University, where he writes about (and eats) food. He blogs about college, cooking and the art of sandwich making – among other things – at his blog Dorm Room Dinner. Follow on Twitter @dormroomdinner.
makes 4 sandwiches
about 8 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 serano chili, seeded and diced (or jalapeno pepper)
1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup beer or water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 green plantains, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 clove garlic, smashed into a paste
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to season
1/3 cup sour cream
4 hamburger buns
1 avocado, halved and thinly sliced
To make the sofrito (sauce), add 3 tablespoons oil to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and bell peppers and cook 5-7 minutes until hot. Add the serano chili, chipotle pepper, bay leaves, 1/2 cup of the beer or water and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
To prepare the plantains, heat a large skillet on medium heat and add the 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the plantains in a single layer and cook 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through and browned. Remove to a large bowl and finish cooking in rounds, adding more oil if necessary.
When all the plantains are finished and placed in a bowl, toss with the smashed clove of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Using a spoon or whisk, smash the plantains until they start to fall apart. Taste and add more oil if they seem too dry. Set aside.
When the sauce has mostly cooled, incorporate the sour cream.
To assemble sandwiches, lay the open burger buns on a work surface. Top evenly with the fried, smashed plantain and spoon over the sauce. Top with avocado and serve at once.