In October of last year, Dave and I traveled to Santo Domingo for a few days to see my amazing cousin Michelle marry the love of her life, Arturo. Stick with me here- I’ll get to food, I promise. The wedding was beautiful and we were treated like royalty by my beloved aunt, who I call Tata. Staying with Tata is unlike staying in a hotel- not only are the food and surroundings better, everything she touches is filled with unconditional love, in the way only Tata can do.
Dominican hospitality is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else- friends and family members greet their company with freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices, presented on silver coasters and handmade lace doilies. There is no pointing to the cabinet of glasses, no “help yourself,” the way there is in the Cruse household (sorry, Tata). The details Dominican hostesses remember about their guests are uncanny and never forgotten- my husband, who loves desserts, was bombarded with cake and ice cream the last time we were down after only being rumored [online and a thousand miles away] to be a dessert fiend. Which is a spot-on assessment. Tata remembered from years ago that I like brown sugar more than white, and lovingly made me strong, Dominican coffee each morning with a beautiful little bowl of brown sugar next to it. Dave likes tea more than coffee, and Tata graciously made it for him each morning, served on a small silver, doily-covered tray next to my coffee. If I am someday as effortlessly gracious a hostess as Tata is, I’ll be forever happy:
One of my favorite Dominican breakfast dishes, mangú, is part of the classic, hearty, Dominican farmer’s breakfast that also includes fried cheese or salami, avocado, and sunny-side up eggs. It’s heavy, but man… it’s GOOD.
After watching Tata make mangú a few times and finding an international grocery store in Saint Louis that sells green plantains, I started making it at home. Plantains are a nutrient-dense, starchy food that look like bananas but aren’t sweet (though they can be, if ripe, and when prepared other ways). They’re comparable to a very tasty potato, so don’t be misled by their banana-like shape. When not paired with salami or cheese, this is a very healthy breakfast dish.
- 2-3 green plantains, unripe, peeled and cut into chunks
- olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, halved
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- a few rings of red onion, sliced
- boiling, salted water, 1 cup reserved
- avocado, sliced (optional)
The easiest way to peel and chop the plantains, I find, is to cut slits down the sides of the peel lengthwise, and remove the peel from the ends. You may want to wet your hands while peeling if you don’t like starchy digits. Cut the plantains into chunks and toss them, along with the garlic clove, into the boiling, salted water. Boil until very tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the vinegar in a small saucepan and add the red onion, cooking until fragrant and tender. These are a traditional mangú topping, but are optional. But, come on, you’ve already purchased unripe plantains from your local international grocery store, you may as well go whole-hog…
When they’re very tender, remove the plantains and garlic to a large mixing bowl and add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, 2 tbsp olive oil, and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Mash!! You can do this with a potato masher or a fork- I prefer a fork. If you’d like, you could also toss the mixture into your food processor in lieu of mashing. Now, here’s where your chef’s intuition comes in- depending on the size of the plantains you used and the consistency you like, add more cooking liquid by the 1/4 cup and olive oil by the tablespoon. I add a few more tablespoons of water and 1-2 more of olive oil. Taste as you go. You’ll notice that Tata’s mangu was thicker than mine- it’s all about preference.
And your taste-testing abilities will now be rewarded…. YOU MAY EAT!! Put the mangú in a serving bowl, top with onions (strained from vinegar) and serve! I really enjoy this dish with sliced avocado and a fried egg on top. Makes a great and complete breakfast or lunch. Just don’t take it personally when you get the side-eyes from your coworkers as they eat their canned soup.
If you’re reading this on a wintry, January day, which is the kind of day I’m writing on, enjoy these photos of Tata’s kitchen and amazing tropical produce and some shots of the city… ah, the comforts of home-away-from home: