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.

Time for Change

Summer is officially over next week, which may be why a good number of people are clinging to it. This time of year seems to be filled with last-minute picnics, requests to eat outside, and reminders to soak up the sun while it’s still here. I guess I’m not really ready to let it go, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fall (and fall foods) as well, but there is just something about summer that’s hard to let go. I know it’s a little late, and if you’re a traditionalist, you may have to wait another year to try this one. However, if you’re like me, this could become the endnote on a beautiful season.

I can’t quite recall where this recipe started, and it’s been through many changes throughout the years. I do remember it being one of the first dishes I brought with me to a potluck. When I was younger, my mom had always been the one to bring a dish if a dish was required. At this particular event, it was one of the first times I was being asked to bring something, and I wanted to impress.

Why did I choose potato salad? How could I land on the right combination? Would be people enjoy it? All of these questions sent me to cookbooks and websites looking for a recipe that looked good, but would allow me the opportunity to get creative.

The thing about potato salad is that it generally has mustard. I’ve tried to like mustard, but I’m honestly just not a fan. The other thing about it is that the potatoes are often cut too large, and especially when they’re cold, it makes the whole mess harder to eat. So perhaps that was where I started, with a notion of a potato salad that was more like mashed potatoes.

However it started, I ended up with a long-standing tradition of bringing this dish to events; it even sort of became a family joke that this was the only thing I knew how to make. Given the nature of this dish, and the time between seasons, you may be inclined to think of this as potato salad or as mashed potatoes. Whatever you call it, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Mashed Potato Salad

Ingredients:
5 pounds of potatoes (almost everything except for red works)
30 ounces of mayonnaise
16 ounces froze mixed vegetables
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Boil the potatoes until tender (about one hour). Peel them before or after they are cooked; I tend to go with after.
2. In a medium pot, add the water and the mixed vegetables. Bring to a boil and drain the water.
3. Hand mash the potatoes to desired size (this is meant to be lumpy) and mix in the rest of the ingredients.

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.