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.

The Potential for Disaster

There’s something scary about roasting a whole turkey. It’s big, it’s kind of pricey, and it isn’t something that gets made all the time. No one wants to eat dry, flavorless, or undercooked turkey. So when I finally decided that I was going to make one, I will admit to being extremely nervous. I had no experience with making something this large, and if it didn’t come out right, I wouldn’t know until I decided to serve it.

It was something I really wanted to try though, just to see if I could. So I did what I do best and I decided to research. I talked to those I knew personally who I knew had made turkey before and I learned their secrets; I looked up dozens of turkey recipes and took the parts that I liked. Armed with ideas and information, I took on this huge task, seasoned my turkey and stuck it in the oven. And then I prayed that it would work out as it was for a decent sized group of people, and my parents were in town.

The good news is it worked! The turkey was delicious and everybody had nothing but good things to say about it. The bad news is that it was pre-blog, so I didn’t write anything down and couldn’t quite recall what I had done with it. Given that turkeys are really only available during a specific time of year and that it’s too big to make on a regular basis, it would be a whole year before I tried it again. The second time was okay, but it wasn’t quite the same. In the meantime, I started the blog, and really wanted to share the recipe, so I decided to try a third time so I would have the recipe, and I’m happy to say the third time definitely was worth writing down.

In the end, the spice list was a little long, but it tasted good, so I’m sticking with it. I also used a meat thermometer that took care of the timing for me, a turkey bag so I didn’t have to worry about it drying out, and a set of turkey forks to lift they turkey out of the bag. I realize there’s a lot of different ways to do this, and I’d love to hear about your favorites. In the meantime, here’s my take on roast turkey.

Roast Turkey

Ingredients:
1 (18 pound) turkey
1 lime
3 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons dried sage
2 tablespoons dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chicken base
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Directions:
1. Clean the turkey by rubbing it with the lime, including the cavity. Rinse and pat dry.
2. Poke several small holes in to the turkey (you can use a fork or a knife)
3. Rub the turkey with the chicken base, including inside the cavity.
4. In a small bowl, mix the bail, rosemary, pepper, salt, sage, thyme, and garlic and set aside.
5. In a small pot, melt the butter on medium high heat.
6. Pour the melted butter in to the seasoning mix and stir well.
7. Rub the butter mixture all over the turkey, including inside the cavity.
8. Place 1/4 of the onion, 2 celery stalks, and 1 carrot inside the cavity of the turkey.
9. Sprinkle the bottom of a turkey size oven bag with flour.
10.
Place the turkey and the remaining vegetables inside of the oven bag. Refrigerate overnight.
11. Preheat oven to 350° F.
12. Place the turkey bag in a roasting pan, poke several holes in the bag to let out steam, and bake the turkey for four hours, or until the internal temperature is 180° F.
13. Once the turkey is cooked, carefully remove from the bag and place on a serving platter. Save the juice for gravy!

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.

Live from New York

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NY, I’m back! Thanks for the warm welcome and my welcome back snowstorm.

It’s been a long time. I’ve missed blogging, but the last few months have been crazy busy with me moving across the country. The good news is, I’m so much closer to the source of information I need for more recipes. The bad news is that I’m currently kitchen-less and commuting several hours a day, so the actual cooking may have to wait.

I miss my kitchen. It wasn’t the best, and I had my issues with it, but at least it was mine. My parents have a kitchen of course, but I just can’t get comfortable. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes.

While I wait for my new home to be ready, I’m doing some research. I have a recipe that I’ve been promising to post for months, but it’s just not where I want it to be. I tried it out on a couple of friends. They liked it, and I agree it tasted good, but there was just something missing. I’ll find out and post it the right way soon, I promise. I do have a bunch of other recipes I could post, but I need to refresh my memory on actual measurements. Of course, this requires that I make all this food, so for my friends in the NY area, be prepared to be a taster.

Here’s a taste of what’s to come (though not necessarily in this order):

1. Sos Pwa Frans (Green Pea Sauce): I know, the name leaves a lot to be desired, but it is what it is. It tastes really good, especially if you can get your peas from Haiti.

2. Whole Turkey: I may have missed the boat on this one. If so, you may have to try out the recipe next year.

3. Haitian Oatmeal: You’ve never had oatmeal until you’ve had it Haitian style. It will probably change how you feel about this particular food.

4. Rice and Peas: One of my favorite ways to eat rice.

5. Fried Plantains: easy but oh so good!

I have a list of twenty or so more, but I think this is enough of a teaser for now. Plus, now that I’m in NY, I’ll be trying out recipes I was too afraid to try out in Seattle (and bugging my mom and aunts for the secret recipes they have as yet declined to share). As soon as I get my kitchen back, I’ll keep the recipes rolling in.

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.