Staples

Although it’s been a while since I’ve posted, you’ll be happy to know I have still been cooking. I’m finally all settled in my new place and making good use of my kitchen. It’s smaller than I would like, but I’ve still managed to find a way to make everything fit.

One of the things I’ve had to readjust to since moving back to NY is the longer commute times. This means weekly dinner needs to be as quick and painless as possible given the short time frames. This recipe, start to finish, takes about 25 minutes. Since most of the time, Haitian food is neither quick or easy to make, so this isn’t strictly Haitian. It does involve rice, though, so hopefully that will be enough to please all the Haitians out there.

This recipe was in large part based on items that I essentially always have on hand: rice and peas. I do also usually have frozen shrimp as well; it’s a good protein source but doesn’t take as long to prepare as most other meat (and no defrost time required).

If you’ll recall from my first rice and beans post, you can substitute just about any bean you’d like. The problem is that most beans take a long time to cook, and I don’t personally like the flavor of canned beans. Thankfully, frozen peas work just as well, and they don’t take very long to cook.

The recipe can also be made without the shrimp if you’d like to keep it vegetarian. I personally love both ways.

What are some of your staples?

P.S. I’ve portioned this out to my smallest sized recipe yet! Since I made this just for me, I didn’t want to go overboard. It makes about 2-4 servings.

Rice & Peas & Shrimp

Ingredients:
1/4 cup frozen petite peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cups jasmine rice
1 habanero pepper
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon chicken base
1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon basil
12 frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:
1. Rinse the shrimp, and mix with basil, black pepper, salt, chicken base, adobo seasoning, Creole Seasoning, garlic, and basil. Set aside.
2. In a medium pot, heat the olive oil  and cook shrimp until they are pink (about 3 minutes).
3. Add water, peas, and habanero and bring to boil.
4. While the water boils, clean the rice (remove any bad rice, rinse with cold water, and drain). Set aside.*
5. Add the rice and stir so that the peas and shrimp are well mixed with the rice. Be careful not to pop the habanero!
6. Boil until water is mostly evaporated (about 2-3 minutes).
7. Turn the heat to low and cover the rice. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Secrets of Mom’s Kitchen

The good news about sharing a kitchen with my mother is that I get to ask her questions. Don’t ask me why I never noticed some of these things before, but a few of her answers  have made me realize I may need to go back and edit some of the recipes I’ve posted.

Thankfully, I hadn’t yet posted this week’s recipe for green pea sauce. When I asked my mother what she puts in it, she told me that she uses two kinds of peas (regular green peas and petite peas) and that she adds onions. I had no idea! These simple additions may explain why my version never quite tasted the same. She did mention that she doesn’t always use two kinds of peas and that if she can’t get both, she prefers petite peas. For this recipe, I’m going to go with just petite peas since that’s what I had when I was making it.

There are a lot of different versions of this sauce, and you can try it out with almost any bean. This one is my favorite, and as a child, it was the only one I enjoyed (something about this always felt like a treat, which was not the case with the other versions). It generally gets served with white rice, and my mom also likes to serve it with fowl (in sauce).

I struggled with what to call this. In Creole, the name of this recipe (Sos Pwa Frans) doesn’t seem nearly as silly. My sister says I should call it pea soup since they are essentially the same thing, but I think soup generally has more ingredients and still contend that this is a sauce and not a soup, and the name in Creole actually literally translates to Green Pea Sauce. I’m also having fun calling it pea sauce, though, so I’m going to go with it.

I’ll probably come back and tweak this recipe as well, but here’s take one for now.

Green Pea Sauce

Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) package frozen petite peas
3 cups of water
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 yellow onion, minced
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon chicken base
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add the olive oil, garlic, and onions and stir on high heat for one minute.
2. Add the water and the frozen peas and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add the remaining spices and stir well. Continue to cook until the peas are well softened, about 15 minutes.
4. Take half the contents of the pot and blend until smooth. Leave the other half cooking.*
5. Add the blended peas back to the pot and continue cooking until the sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful that it doesn’t get too thick!

*You can take more than half out. I just like half because I like having some of the peas not blended. If you prefer, you could probably blend all of it.

The Most Essential Item

It’s been a while. I have all these recipes I want to get posted, but the posts have had to take a backseat to other things. The good news is, I’ve been having a great summer filled with all the typical summer events: a wedding, vacation, concerts, conventions, and barbecues.

I know there are tons of great barbecue foods, but I consider burgers to be one of the most classic. Prior to moving to Seattle, I had never been to a barbecue that didn’t include burgers and so part of me just assumed that it was a standard part of the menu. However, during my first summer in Seattle, I attended two events where burgers where not a priority. During the first event, there were tons of frozen patties, but no buns or condiments. I thought I learned my lesson with the first event, so for the second event, I decided to bring buns, cheese, and condiments. I even had some seasoning in case someone had just brought frozen patties again, so I was sure I had it covered! This time, though, even the frozen patties were missing.

That’s sort of how I became the burger girl at barbecues in Seattle. To avoid future disappointment, I decided it would be best for everyone if I just provided the burgers AND the buns. There hasn’t been another disappointing barbecue since. Hopefully the recipe (which I’ve scaled down to family size) will be the crowd pleaser that I’ve found it to be for you as well.

What’s your essential barbecue food?

Grilled Burgers

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1/4 lime
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black or red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:
1. Squeeze the lime juice directly on to the ground beef.
2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in to the beef and mix well.
3. Form the beef in to four patties and let sit for at least one hour.
4. Grill to your preferred level of doneness.

Summertime

I love summer. The season brings to mind sunny days, fun, and relaxation. There’s just something infectious about the warm weather that makes people want to get out and do things. Besides the warm weather, summer also brings tons of live music, the opportunity for outdoor events, and a host of good food.

I suppose some of the food could be eaten in other seasons too, but it’s just not the same as enjoying it during the summer. I don’t know about you, but for me, all the barbecues and picnics really make the summer more enjoyable.

With that in mind, for the next couple of months, my posts will be dedicated to all the things (and foods) that I love about summer. First up: fried chicken.

I think of fried chicken as a supremely American food, although Haitians do have a version as well. I think my recipe is somewhat a combination of the two, although it really does tend to the more American side. It’s a definite comfort food. Maybe it’s partially tradition, but fried chicken in the summer (especially at a picnic) seems like tradition. This is one of those foods that is likely possible to eat at other times of the year (and probably easier to make given the heat of the frying), but it feels made for warm summer days.

I realize that there are a thousand ways to make this, and perhaps my recipe isn’t all that original, but I like it and I hope that you will, too. As always, feel free to offer feedback in the comments if you try it. I’m always open to suggestions.

One quick note about technique: I boil my chicken before flash frying. I think it guarantees that the chicken is tender, and it reduces frying time. There is a possibility of overcooking, but I still think that’s better than undercooking. Feel free to use whatever technique you’re most comfortable with.

Fried Chicken

Ingredients:
Chicken:
6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 lime
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon chicken base
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups of water


Breading:

2 eggs
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 quart frying oil

Directions:
1. Clean the chicken by rubbing the lime over all the drumsticks. Rinse with cold water.
2. Add all the chicken ingredients (except water) to a small pot and toss together. Make sure all pieces are evenly covered.
3. Add the three cups of water and cook on high heat for 35 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Add water as necessary to keep from drying.
4. While the chicken is cooking, mix the hot sauce and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Set aside for later.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Set aside for later.
6. Add the oil to a deep pan and heat on high for 5-10 minutes (it should be hot enough to sizzle). Reduce heat to medium.
7. Once the chicken is done cooking, dip each piece in to the egg/hot sauce mixture, then dip in the flour mixture until it is thoroughly coated.*
8. Fry the chicken in the oil for 1 minutes or until golden.**

*The chicken will be hot, so I use tongs for dipping. You can also wait until the chicken cools down if you prefer.
**You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. The chicken should be completely submerged in the oil for even frying. I actually use a deep fryer, which makes to frying more consistent and less messy.

My Least Favorite Things

We had a team lunch today with the team requested menu of tastebudsrequired.com favorites: mac & cheese, cornbread, and griot. I threw in a little rice and peas and pikliz (since I have a ton of it!). I absolutely love feeding people, but it left me with the two things I hate most about cooking: leftovers and cleaning.

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Why oh why is there always so much food leftover? I get it, it’s because I cook like I’m feeding an army, but I honestly have tried to do a better job of estimating how much food I need. Unfortunately, it just never works out no matter how much I plan. Part of that is because no matter how many people I plan for, the likelihood is that there are at least some who won’t be able to make it due to last-minute emergencies. I suppose I could try to love leftovers, but it’s much more likely that my coworkers will continue to  enjoy them more than I will.

This brings me to another pet peeve: guests who refuse to confirm one way or the other. Hey, I realize that not everyone is a planner by nature, but doesn’t basic consideration for your host insist that you at least reply to an invitation? Yes; no; or maybe, I’ll let you know soon, are all acceptable answers. Silence makes me wonder if you still respect me. I suppose it’s possible that technology fails and the message was never received (on either side), and perhaps something crazy happened that prevented you from replying, or you could have just forgotten to respond, but those sound like excuses to cover up an uncomfortable truth. I suppose silence can also be interpreted as the no it’s meant to be. Either way, it makes it impossible to plan properly.

My other least favorite part about cooking is cleaning. Creating all the food is fun; the mess that’s left afterwards is not, and there’s just no way to avoid it. I wish I could just learn to love this part too, but it just feels like an unfortunate side effect.

Anyone have any tips on avoiding the leftovers or the cleaning, or learning to love either? I’m all ears!