Recipe: Cuban-style oats (+ plantains!)

A bit of mise en place: onions, peppers, marinating pork, and black beans.
A bit of mise en place: onions, peppers, marinating pork, and black beans.
This smelled so good.
This smelled so good.

I’ve been meaning to make some variation on “savory oatmeal” for months, ever since I came across this recipe (I can’t remember how…probably redirected from Buzzfeed or something). I took that recipe, added more vegetables and some pork (I needed a break from chicken), and substituted in whole oat groats for the oatmeal, since that’s what I had. The result was a bit like a Caribbean twist on that paella I made a while back, which is not a bad thing! Oat groats, when cooked, take on a similar texture to brown rice; there isn’t that gooeyness you get in oatmeal, which comes from the starches released when the oats are cut and/or smashed. The spice and lime mixture that coats the pork is amazing, and I wish the freshness of the lime came through more in the final dish. I’d consider adding some lime zest and/or a bit more lime juice toward the end of cooking.

Groats cooking away.
Groats cooking away.
This is the part of the recipe were all the stuff goes in the big pot.
This is the part of the recipe were all the stuff goes in the big pot.
Just about done.
Just about done.
Step zero: removing the peel.
Step zero: removing the peel.

As for the plantains: I first had them on a family vacation to Costa Rica when I was a kid. They were usually prepared as patacones, and served alongside gallo pinto (rice and beans) and pico de gallo. This trip was before I started liking beans and tomatoes, so the delicious, slightly sweet fried plantains were pretty much the highlight of any meal. When I saw plantains at Nasreen Dar (the local corner shop/world food market), I knew I had to try making something with them.

Sauce and slices.
Sauce and slices.
Ready to roast.
Ready to roast.

I wanted to find a recipe for plantains that would give me an interesting texture, that same mild sweetness, and not require frying, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed with the one I found! Roasted without oil, the plantain slices puff up and get a bit crispy on the outside, while remaining sweet and tender on the inside. The only chance I’d make would be adding more spices, and maybe a sprinkling of salt over the whole sheet before baking. As is, they’re pretty great (even if you kind of burn half of them, like I did)!

Slightly overdone in spots (apparently our oven is hotter in the back), but yummy!
Slightly overdone in spots (apparently our oven is hotter in the back), but yummy!

Cuban-Style Oats

Yield: 5-6 servings.

Adapted from: Women’s Health, Eating Well, and Bob’s Red Mill.

1 c oats
3 c chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 – 1/2 lb boneless lean pork chops
1 Tbsp paprika
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chile flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 (15 oz) can black beans or equivalent from scratch
2-3 handfuls frozen chopped spinach

Add oat groats and stock (I tend to dilute mine if it’s not homemade) to a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 30-40 minutes. In the meantime…

Trim excess fat from the pork and chop into bite-sized or slightly larger pieces; move to medium bowl. In a bowl or mug, mix paprika, cumin, oregano, pepper, chile flakes, garlic, and lime juice. Pour over pork pieces and stir to coat.

Heat 1-2 tsp oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until just browned on the outside and spices are fragrant (shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes). Remove meat to a plate and pour any remaining juices and spices into the cooking oats.

Add onions (and a bit more oil if necessary) to skillet and cook at least until softened and lightly browed, about 10 minutes. (If you have time, I recommend caramelizing the onions.) Add peppers and cook until softened.

When the oats have been cooking 30-40 minutes and you have completed all the above steps, add pork, beans (drained and rinsed if from a can), onions, peppers, and frozen spinach to oats, along with 1/2 tsp cumin and salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to simmer, covered, about 10-20 minutes, until oats are completely cooked. Season to taste, stir one last time, and let sit, covered, about 5 minutes before eating.

Serving suggestion: topped with hot sauce of your choice and/or fresh cilantro. Goes well with plantains (as described below).

Not your typical bowl of oats, maybe...but really good!
Not your typical bowl of oats, maybe…but really good!

Oven-Roasted Plaintains

Adapted from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

1 large plantain
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Peel the plantain: cut in half, then make an incision with the tip of a knife all the way down the length of each half. Pull back the skin along the length of the incision and it should roll off. Cut into ~1/4-inch thick slices and toss with lime juice, salt, and spices. Arrange in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, flipping pieces over halfway through, until puffed up and slightly crispy.

Serving suggestion: warm out of the oven, on their own, or as a side/prelude to a Caribbean or Latin American meal.

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