If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting down to a Dominican breakfast
. . .then you are probably a fan of mangú. In the past it was a rare find in stateside restaurants. In the U.S. you only had the privilege of savoring mangú if you had a Dominican abuela or tía, or at least knew one. Now, however, mangú is inching its way into the broader pancultural food scene. And we gringos happily welcome it to our tables.
Recently we had an opportunity to sit around the kitchen island of our Dominican friend Rosemary. Whenever we had asked others if they might let us watch them make mangú their response had been, “Sure. But you really should go see Rosemary. Hers is the best.” Well, we certainly wanted the best so I grabbed our very willing food photographer and took off to spend the morning learning, and of course tasting.
When we arrived, our cook was already frying us tostones “just to nibble on while you wait.”
Aaah that Dominican hospitality. She showed us her green plantains. ( They must still be green because you are looking for the savory taste of green, not the sweeter taste of more ripened yellow with black spots).
A huge pot of water was heating on the stove with “a bit of salt” and a “dash of vinegar” while Rosemary began cutting her plantains in half lengthwise then in half lengthwise once again. She then dumped the whole batch into the boiling water and waited for it to come back to a low boil.
Mangú had begun, but here is where we ran into our only cultural conflict! You will soon see why. The North American (me) asked, “Now exactly how long will you boil them?” So typical, right? I, being the American gal that I am, live in a time conscious world. Always measuring things by duration, and conscious of start and finish times. My laid back friend, of course, laughed. “Oh, it totally depends on the fruit. I have seen them be ready in forty-five minutes and I’ve seen them take two hours.” Wow. A bit of a nightmare for a time conscious lady. No wonder she made us something to nibble on! So the photographer (also a dear friend) and I moved into our “relax, visit, help chop things in the kitchen, and enjoy the kids” zone. We should do that more often on work assignments!
Mangú is only part of a traditional Dominican breakfast, so while the plantains boiled, we helped to prepare the accompaniments.
After slicing a large red onion, Rosemary cooked it slowly in 4 T of oil until soft and then added 2-3 T vinegar. This vinegary onion sauce is called escabeche and will go on top of the mangu’. The aroma was beyond belief. Our cook was multi-tasking: dredging slices of cheese (Queso Desfreir) and slicing Salchichón (similar to salami) to get ready to fry. (Rosemary uses Induveca smoked salami). She explained that she always fries her eggs before the cheese or sausage. because she wants the oil fresh and not discolored. After the eggs were fried in oil and set aside to keep warm, the dredged cheese slices were fried. She cautioned us not to slice the cheese too thin because we want it to be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The salami was then fried until brown and slightly crispy. Sure enough the oil was now brown. She knows what she’s doing! While watching her frying pan, Rosemary had drained her plantains leaving about 3/4 cup of the liquid and then mashed them with a stick (!) of butter, salt and pepper.
By now our mouths were watering and our appetites ready!
The end result was beautiful and the smell was inviting. The onions were served atop the mangú, with the eggs, salami, and cheese on the side. The breakfast was delicioso! The question remains – can we reproduce it at home? Sure! But I’d rather return to her house one of these days!