The plantain is a jumbo cousin of the banana. It’s always served cooked, usually as a starch or vegetable. A green plantain tastes bland like a potato. When ripe (the skin will be black), plantains become as sweet as a ripe banana. Both green and ripe plantains can be grilled, but I prefer the ripe ones: The fire caramelizes the sugars in the plantains and makes them candy sweet. Grilling the plantain pieces in their skins keeps them moist and tender.
Step 1: Cut 1 inch off each end of the plantains, then cut each plantain crosswise sharply on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces.
Step 2: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
Step 3: When ready to cook, place the plantains on the hot grate and grill, turning often with tongs, until the skins are charred, the exposed ends are nicely caramelized, and the flesh in the center is soft. This will take 12 to 15 minutes. To test for softness, press the plantains with your finger.
Step 4: Serve the grilled plantains in the skins. Cut off the skin before eating.
If you can’t buy ripe plantains, let green ones ripen at room temperature until their skins are black (this can take up to a week).