Damn. Venezuela does it right.

As you know by now, I’m constantly on the quest for the perfect vegan sandwich. In fact, I’ll even eat very unvegan sandwiches given the right circumstances (i.e. drunk off my rocker at Elliot Street Pub where the sandwiches are the best in town–never vegan, but really darn tasty). So when the New York Times posted this mouthwatering article about the best places to nab a patacón in New York City, I knew Atlanta needed one. Or, rather, that I needed one. And pronto. “But why all the trouble, when two slices of white or rye might do just as well” Dave Cook, the reporter, asks. The answer he gives: “Because Venezuelans love their plantains “morning, afternoon and night.”

Guess what, it’s not just the Venezuelans who love their plantains, it’s also me, myself, and I (and hopefully you too). If you’ve never tried a double fried green plantain, well friend, now’s the time. Seize the day.

The patacón is made up of a “green (that is, unripe) plantain that’s been sliced lengthwise, fried, pressed flat and fried again. Still warm, the golden discs embrace shredded beef, roast pork, chorizo, chicken or cheese.” The article described a couple versions, most with meat, tomato, lettuce, and a sauce of some sort, so I decided to try my best at veganizing the very meaty treat. As far as the wastefulness of the foil is concerned, it’s pretty darn hard to eat the sandwich without wrapping it in something–the sauce flies everywhere–so, well, it’s worth it.

My personal patacón consists of the fried green plantain “bread,” chopped up and seasoned gluten, tomato, lettuce, and my own thrown together pink sauce. Is the ensemble authentic? Lord knows. Was it super ridiculously delicious? Amen. The gluten tasted like chorizo, the tomato was fresh, local, and juicy, the sauce was perfectly spicy & creamy, and the plantain was fried plantain goodness (there’s just no human way to describe the starchy perfection of it). You can substitute whatever you’d like, I’m sure, for the meat and the fixin’s, I think the only requirement is the fried plantain. So go for it! Seriously, right now, go make one!

Vegan Patacón

1 green plantain
several slices of Kittee’s gluten log
fresh crushed pepper
1/2 tsp Cajun spice
1/2 ripe tomato, sliced
1 or 2 pieces of lettuce
2 tbsp Veganaise
1-2 tsp spicy mustard
2 tsp ketchup
Hot sauce to taste
Oil for frying
Empty beer bottle
Paper bag

In a small bowl mix the veganaise, mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce to taste. It should be pink and spicy.  Set aside.

Heat up 1 tsp vegetable oil in a small pan. Chop up the gluten until it looks like shredded pork. Add to the oil and brown with fresh pepper and Cajun spice. Once slightly crispy and browned (like you’d want your vegan chorizo to be), remove from heat and set aside.

In another pan, heat up 1/4″ vegetable oil for frying the plantains. While the oil is heating up, chop the plantain in half (i.e. halfway between the ends), then in half again lengthwise. Peel it. Fry the 4 plantain pieces on one side until golden (3-4) minutes. Flip over and do the same (mine took less time on the second half, 2-3 minutes). Carefully remove (I used tongs) the plantains and place on a cutting board or piece of parchment paper. Using the beer bottle, gently roll the bottle up the plantain from one end to the other flattening the plantain to 1/4″ thickness. BE GENTLE. You don’t want to smoosh apart or tear the plantain. Once flattened, fry each piece on both sides again until golden/golden brown. Remove and place on a paper bag to drain the excess oil.

Now to assemble. Place one plantain slice on a piece of tin foil. Slather on a generous amount of pink sauce. Next layer a tomato slice or two, two or three heaping spoonfuls of the “meat”, some lettuce, and another slathering of pink sauce. Top with another plantain slice, then wrap in the foil. Repeat with the other two slices.

Eat while hot, be careful not to get pink sauce all over you, and come back to me with news about how awesome Venezuela is.