I don’t know whether to call this a side dish or a dessert. In my hometown, we serve them as a part of the meal; in other towns they are served at the end of the meal as dessert. Both are perfect!
2 very ripe plantains*
⅔cuppanela* or dark brown sugar
The plantains for this dish have to be very ripe, the peel almost black, but still have to be firm to the touch. When you press them gently, they should not feel mushy inside; if they are, the taste will be rancid and overripe. If you buy green plantains and wait for them to ripen it might take a week or so. Do not refrigerate them or they will not ripen well. It is better to buy plantains fully ripe or only a couple of days before, as this ensures you they haven’t been refrigerated and will ripen fully without getting mushy.
Cut the ends off the plantains and peel. Cut each into 4 chunks, about 1½ inches thick.
In a small heavy saucepan place the plaintain chunks, 2cups of water, the panela, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.
Cook over medium heat until the plantains are very soft, the water has reduced, and a caramel-colored syrup has formed, about 15 minutes for brown sugar and 35 minutes for panela.