My weekday breakfasts have been severely lacking in the “fun” department over the past few months. My days used to begin by driving my son to school, after which I’d grab myself an Americano and a small bite to eat, read the news, and enjoy about 30 peaceful minutes before getting to work. It was never anything too fancy—perhaps a coffee shop scone or a fast food sandwich—but it was something I didn’t have to make myself (I have zero desire to wash dishes before noon).
When I stopped driving to school in March, I tried to keep up this cherished ritual at home with drip coffee and a bowl of cereal, but as days turned into weeks my body stopped being enthusiastic about breakfast. Eventually I was waking up 30 seconds before work, eating dry cereal directly from the box. Work-from-home hell can do a number on one’s routine, just as writing a book can (I’ve written four, and have similarly regressed with every deadline).
Recently, I’ve tried turning things around. I got back into the habit of setting my alarm early, and I no longer read the news as soon as I wake up, because that has repeatedly proven to be a terrible idea. Instead, I’m using that time to make nice things for breakfast that I can freeze in batches and then heat up each morning while my coffee is brewing, because I’m still not willing to do any dishes before noon.
This recipe is one of those nice breakfasts: a play on rellenitos de plátano (stuffed plantain balls) filled with cream cheese and encrusted with sweet, cinnamon-y cornflake crumbs. Traditionally, rellenitos de plátano are fried, but I heat these up in my air fryer, which I liken to a microwave for foods that should never be microwaved. I drop a few balls into the fryer straight from the freezer, let that high convection heat work its magic, and by the time I’ve brushed my teeth and put on legitimate clothing, I’ve got a special breakfast that makes me feel like I’ve got good things ahead of me. We’ve all made some sacrifices this year, but our early morning optimism doesn’t have to be one of them.
- 5 ripe plantains (vividly yellow with plenty of black spots)
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 3-4 cups pulverized cornflake crumbs
- 1 (8-oz.) package of cream cheese
- 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- Neutral-flavored cooking oil
Use a sharp knife to cut a long slit down the side of each plantain, then microwave for 5-7 minutes until they can be easily pierced with a toothpick. Let them cool down for a few minutes, then peel, removing any stringy bits, and add to a large bowl with the salt, vanilla, allspice, and nutmeg. Mash the plantains well with a whisk or potato masher, then add cornflake crumbs a few tablespoons at a time until the mixture has the consistency of a soft, sticky dough. (Note that you won’t use nearly all your cornflake crumbs for this step; some will be used later. The amount of cornflakes used is dependent on how ripe the plantains are.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Cut the block of cream cheese into 16 pieces. Wet your hands slightly, then roll the pieces into balls. Pop into the freezer for at least 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, mix about 1 1/4 cups of cornflake crumbs with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Rub a bit of oil on your hands, then take golf-ball-sized pieces of plantain dough, flatten between your palms, then wrap it around a piece of cream cheese and form into a smooth ball. Roll in cornflake crumbs to coat, then freeze the balls until solid—at least four hours.
Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees, then add as many frozen plantain balls as you care to eat and cook for 5-7 minutes until crispy. Drizzle with honey, if desired, and serve immediately.
Note: If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake these in a 450-degree oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.