Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Haiti

It has been a while since my last challenge, which was to make Escudella, a main course from Andorra.  With the pleasant thoughts of my role as an Escullaire for a day, I turn to my next challenge ... to make a main course from Haiti.  I assumed this challenge in the context of cooking a four course meal Haitian meal with my beautiful Angel for our Wine Club friends.  While only the main course counts toward my personal culinary challenge, I have included all four courses -- which actually includes five dishes (more about that later) -- with this post.

For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti's cuisine has benefited from a wealth of different cultural and culinary influences.  The indigenous peoples, the Arawak and Taíno, cultivated fruits and vegetables, including but not limited to  guavas, papayas, sweet potatoes, pineapples and corn.  With the Age of Discovery, the Europeans then left their mark on the cuisine.  European traders and settlers brought  oranges, lemons, mangoes, rice and sugarcane  The last ingredient also left a further mark upon Haiti, as Europeans brought slaves from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations.   The Africans made a significant contribution to Haitian cuisine with ingredients such as  beans, taro root, pigeon peas and okra.

My goal with this challenge was to make a four course dinner featuring dishes that are commonly served on the tables of Haitian families.  Having not visited Haiti personally, this is quite a challenge.

THE FIRST COURSE

The first course is Accra.  This dish is a Haitian version of Akkra, a Senegalese fritter made with black eye peas.  Rather than using peas, the Haitians use malanga, also known as eddoe, which is a close relative to taro root. This dish can be made either by deep frying the or pan frying the fritters.  This recipe calls for doing the latter, using about a cup of oil in a pan.  Make sure that the oil gets very hot and add a few tablespoons at a time so as to not cause the temperature to drop too much.  We served these fritters with a little sour cream, which works well with the root vegetable fritters.

ACCRA (Malanga Fritters)
Adapted from Haitian Recipes

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 pound of malanga, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 teaspoon of adobo seasoning
Salt, to taste
2 teaspoons of flat leaf parsley
1 cup of oil
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 shallot minced
1 teaspoon of garlic powder

Directions:
1.  Prepare the malanga.  Soak the malanga in water overnight.  Heat a  pot of water on high until the water begins to boil.  Boil the malanga for about ten minutes.  Check to see if they are cooked by piercing the root with a fork.    Remove the malanga and allow them to cool.  The cover or skin should come off easily.  Allow the taro root to cool before proceeding to the next step. 

2.   Prepare the fritters.   Grate the malanga.  Mash it with a fork.  Combine the remaining ingredients and mix them in well.

3.  Fry the fritters.  Use a skillet, heat the oil until it is very hot.  Pour a spoonful of batter at a time.  Flip over to brown evenly.  Remove and set aside.  Blot with a paper towel to remove excess oil. 

THE SECOND COURSE

For the second course, I made a Soupe aux Pois Rouge or Red Pea Soup.  I could not find any red peas, so I substituted small red beans.  I followed the recipe and the resulting product closely resembled the texture of refried beans.  I added a couple cups of water to provide a more soup-like texture to the dish. 



SOUPE AUX POIS ROUGE
Recipe adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 bag of small red beans
1 scallion, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon of adobo
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon of oil

Directions:
1.  Boil the peas/beans.   Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the peas.  Boil for about one and one half hours until the peas are tender.  Drain the peas, set aside and reserve the liquid. 

2.  Prepare the soup.  Add the peas to a food processor, along with two cups of the reserve liquid and about another cup or two of water if you want to create a soup-like consistency, four cloves of garlic, and puree until smooth.

3.  Finish the soup.  Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Saute the shallot and scallions for three to five minutes.  Pour the pea soup into a large pot over medium heat.  Season to taste with the seasoning.  Stir in the thyme, parsley, scallion and shallot.  Remove from heat and serve with white rice.

THE MAIN COURSE

Of course, the Around the World in 80 Dishes Challenge requires me to make a main course.  To satisfy the challenge, I decided to make Griots, which is a popular Haitian pork dish.  I have to admit that this is a dish that I have been wanting to make for quite a while.  I read a couple of articles about Griots and the process by which it is made.  I found the articles interesting and I was very happy to have the opportunity to make this dish.  

The process is fairly straightforward.  The pork is rinsed in citrus juice (orange and lime) and then marinated with various spices for a few hours.  The meat is then cooked twice.  It is first boiled with the marinade (although I have seen some recipes that call for roasting it).  Once the meat is tender, the meat is fried until it is browned in a pan with some oil.   


GRIOTS
Recipe adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of pork
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 teaspoon of parsley
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of adobo
1 lime 
1 orange
Directions:
1.  Prepare the meat.  Cut the meat into medium pieces.  Wash thoroughly with lime and/or sour orange juice.  Season the meat well with adobo, rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic powder, and pepper.  Marinate for about four hours.

2.  Boil the meat.  In a saucepan, cover the meat with water and boil over medium heat until water evaporates.  Stir occasionally and cook until the meat is tender.  Remove the meat and set aside.

3.  Fry the meat.  Heat the oil in a skillet, fry each side of the meat to brown evenly.

THE NATIONAL DISH

I decided that I would serve the Griots with the "National Dish" of Haiti, Diri Kole ak Pwa, which is also called "Ris et Pois" or "Rice and Beans."  My beautiful Angel made this dish and she did a great job.  The rice dish has quite a kick from the Scotch Bonnet peppers.  If you cannot find Scotch Bonnet peppers, you can do what I did and substitute Habanero peppers.  You can see the peppers, they are the little orange strips amongst the rice. 


DIRI KOLE AK PWA (Rice and Beans)
Recipe adapted from Tastebook
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
2 (8 ounce packages) of dry kidney beans
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallot bulbs, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of uncooked long grain white rice
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
6 sprigs of fresh parsley
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Scotch Bonnet chile peppers 

Directions:
1.  Prepare the beans  Place beans in a large pot, and cover with 3 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours, or until tender. Drain, reserving liquid.

2. Cook the beans and rice. Heat oil in a dutch oven or similar pot over medium heat. Saute shallot and garlic until fragrant. Stir in cooked beans, and cook for 2 minutes. Measure reserved liquid, and add water to equal 5 cups; stir into skillet. Stir in the uncooked rice. Season with bay leaves, adobo seasoning, salt, pepper, and cloves. Place sprigs of parsley and thyme, and scotch bonnet pepper on top, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove thyme, parsley, and scotch bonnet pepper to serve.

THE FINAL COURSE

My beautiful Angel also made dessert for this meal ... Bonbon Sirop.  I would describe this dish as Haitian brownie with a citrus rum glaze, although it is technically a dense flour cake with a citrus rum glaze.  For this dish, we went all out, even using Rhum Barbancourt, a Haitian rum, when making the glaze.  The flavors of the cinnamon, ginger and molasses are very prominent in this dish. 


BONBON SIROP
Adapted from Haitian Recipes
Serves Many
 Ingredients:
2 cups of butter
3 eggs
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tbsp of grated ginger
1/2 tbsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of nutmeg
1/2 cup of molasses
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract 
1 tsp of baking soda
4 cups of all-purpose flour

Glaze (optional)
1/3 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of butter
1 tablespoon of rum
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of lemon zest

Directions:
1.  Prepare the Bonbon Sirop.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Whisk eggs, butter and brown sugar together.  Combine the remaining ingredients and beat into a dough like paste.  Spread the paste into a pre-greased baking dish.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the glaze.  Pour water, sugar, butter, lemon zest, and orange zest in a saucepan over high heat.  Stir constantly for 10 minutes until it caramelizes into a semi-thick syrup.  Take the glaze off of the heat and add rum. Drizzle the glaze over the Bonbon Sirop.

*     *     *

This is the first challenge in which I worked with my beautiful Angel to make a full meal as part of the Around the Woprld in 80 Dishes challenge.  Clare is an excellent cook and together, we make a great team.  Overall, I think we succeeded in creating a great meal.  Each dish was very good, although the Griots and Diri Kole ak Pwa were my favorites.  The Bonbon Sirop came in a close second.  And, finally, we made a donation in an amount equal to the food costs for our wine club dinner to Just Haiti, which, among other things, helps Haitian coffee growers and their families get a fair price for their crops.   

Good food and good times, all for a good cause.  What more could anyone ask for?  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

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