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It’s been said that "everything that is old is new again." Much to my amazement, that now includes "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show". Much more to my amazement, it stars Robert De Niro! I have not seen the movie but my favorite part of the show was the story of Mr. Peabody, the dog who "owned" a son.

"Sherman, my boy," as Mr. Peabody might intone in a somewhat smarmy way, (especially for a dog!), "Please set the 'Way Back Machine' to the summer of ‘73."

We’re going to a little place on Duval Street in Key West called Café Expresso. But now the dog and boy are gone and the memories are all my own...

Oh yes, she’s coming into view quite clearly now and although I can’t remember her name, I do remember some structurally challenged stretch pants, a great gold-gilded, toothy smile topped with orange hair.

I was helping some carpenter buddies of mine re-build some tottering, wooden houses on the island. It was numbing work, let me tell you. Man, could we eat back then.

We’d go to Café Expresso for lunch or sometimes dinner. She was there either way. Dishing out rice, pork chops, breaded steaks, fish stews, bean soups and, of course, those sweet, honey-hued, chewy-soft and heavenly fried plantains.

Plantains [a variety of the banana] were the first exotic food I tried when I moved to Key West from a little town north of Chicago that just nailed me. They made the other things all so harmoniously delicious.

At first I didn’t have the touch when I cooked them at home. I had no abuela coaxing me to "let them ripen, Chico! Let them turn almost black if you want them to taste the way you like them in the café." But you live and learn, no? Green ones are good for chips and the black or maduro ones are the ones for the sweet caramelized kind.

It’s those maduros that I use to make an intense smoky, creamy sauce for my take on Roast Pork Havana Nueva. There are a total of four sauces on that dish, but seven times out of ten the ones guests ask me about in the dining room is, "What’s the one that is kind of golden and sweet?"

"It’s the Plantain Crema," I tell them. I love plantains.
 


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