Months ago I learned what a jibarito was, when I came across it on a blog. I bookmarked the recipe for this grilled cheese sandwich that uses ripe plantain in place of bread, but I could never make it–I was missing a key ingredient. And then a few weeks ago, my aunt walked into the kitchen with it: guava paste! Her friend brought it back with her from Guyana and gifted it to my aunt, who spread the jelly on toast as you might any other. And true to her generous nature, she brought some over with me, not knowing I’d searched for it in vain for some time now.
It was fitting that we made the jibaritos together–she cooks plantain but had never had it like this. Sections of the plantain roast in the oven before being pressed flat and pan-fried like a common grilled cheese sandwich. The guava paste is just the thing–bringing out a little of the sweetness in the plantain and pairing so well the cheese as fruit preserves do. Having had it now, I can tell you that any jelly would make a decent substitute for guava paste, and jibaritos are special. The texture of the plantain, dense and almost fiberous, separates it completely from grilled cheese sandwiches in my mind. Jibaritos are a whole other new, delicious thing to enjoy and to crave suddenly and fixedly a few times a year. You’re welcome.