Cajeta is a Mexican sweet treat like dulce de leche (or arequipe in Colombia), but it’s made from goat milk rather than cow milk, and that one little ingredient change makes it very rich in flavor. Back in April as we planned our Cinco de Mayo meal, I had a craving for cajeta and decided to make this simple dessert for my family so they could enjoy the experience of grilled plantains as I have in the past, but my search for cajeta became a grail quest as I hit store after store in our area and just couldn’t find it. After seven stores I finally found it at Global Food, so if you live in the DC area and like me can’t find cajeta at your usual stores, check one of the Global Food locations. Or if you can get your hands on some goat milk, you can make your own using the recipe in the links below.
There are a few different brands of cajeta on the market and the one I’ve used over the years is Coronado, which comes in squeeze bottles with a goat on the label. Coronado brand has two kinds of cajeta, including one with white wine (cajeta envinada). Of course Michael and I kept the one with wine for ourselves and let the boys have the non-alcoholic version (cajeta quemada). Cajeta can be used in place of dulce de leche in just about any dessert.
Plantains are related to bananas, but more starchy and are used in both savory and sweet dishes, and they take much longer to fully ripen. I purchased the plantains for this dessert at the end of April when they were still yellow with some small black patches along the edges, and it took two weeks for them to reach the fully ripe black stage. Stay close by the grill when cooking so you can turn them frequently. The skin will blister and the flesh will expand, and you will need to turn them over and rotate to cook them evenly, but it doesn’t take long and the taste will remind you of banana boats cooked in the hot coals of a campfire.
GRILLED PLANTAINS WITH CAJETA
Adapted from Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless.
small heavy skillet
small saucepan (or glass bowl and microwave)
4 small black-ripe plantains
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup cajeta quemada or cajeta envinada
1. Preheat the grill.
2. Cut the ends off each plantain so that a small amount of the flesh is exposed. Make a shallow slit the length of the plantain on the inner curve. This will allow the flesh to expand as it cooks and prevent an explosion.
3. Will the grill at medium-hot, lay the plantains on the grill and cook until thoroughly soft and dark brown, turning and rotating occasionally so the plantains cook evenly on both sides and ends, about 5 to 8 minutes.
4. While the plantains cook, dry roast the almond slices for a few minutes in the small skillet over medium heat. Watch carefully and do not allow them to burn. Warm the cajeta over low heat or heat in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds.
5. Remove the plantains from the grill and let them cool a few minutes before handling them. Gently peel back the skin and slice each plantain into 1/2-inch pieces. Place the pieces on plates and drizzle on the cajeta and sprinkle on the nuts.
Oven method: Roast the plantains in a 450° F/230° C oven for about 20 minutes.