CARIBBEAN - Summer 2022 (Jul-Sept) Cuisine of the Quarter

Get ready to head to the tropics, because CARIBBEAN was our big winner this quarter! Looking forward to learning more about the region and its diverse cuisine with you HOs. Thanks to all for your participation in COTQ!

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I’m doing a happy dance! Not much cooking for the next two weeks, but after that, we’ll limbo ourselves into the kitchen to get started!

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What do you think you’ll try?

I’m not much into Caribbean curries, but I love a good Jamaican patty - homemade might be interesting.

Oh wait - this includes Cuba and PR right? Might be time for the tostones and black beans and rice I learned during the pandemic.

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Yes! I think exploring the various “micro” cuisines of the Caribbean will make for an interesting quarter. We can always focus more closely on one specific island in the future, but this time around broader is better!

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I love Caribbean curries, and hand pies. And jerk chicken. Wish I could get conch around here. Maybe I’ll see if the local seafood shack has any …I suppose I could substitute squid.

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Awww! Caribbean food sounds great, want to cook!! I’m away from home for 2 months, difficult to cook…

Cuban-ish dinner tonight. Chicharrones - fried pork rinds (actually fried pork belly with skin), tostones (fried smashed green plantains), congri (black beans and rice), and also half of an avocado.

Inspired by this tribute to chicharrones by the great Compay Segundo:

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Hey folks, just wanted you all to know that voting for the August Cookbook of the Month is going on now. One of the nominees, Black Food, would have some crossover appeal with the current COTQ, but all the nominees are worth considering.

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POLLO EN FRICASE (https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1022000-pollo-en-fricase)

Family members have been in different places for much of the past couple months, but we were finally together for dinner this week, and I took the chance to make something Caribbean. And it was delicious. I would, however, caution to use less salt. It’s true that it has potatoes and chicken, which both need salt, but I thought a tablespoon and a half was excessive. It was still delicious, but I was thirsty all night. I did make one change. The recipe calls for 2-3 lbs bone-in thighs with the skin removed. This ended up being 4 big thighs, which would have been a little tough to serve fairly between 3 people. So I made this around lunchtime and then let it sit for a bit, and before dinner I took the thighs out and pulled the meat off and shredded it. This was a really nice way to eat it, over rice. I served it with a salad with avocado and radish, dressed with lime juice and olive oil. No picture, but it wasn’t an especially photogenic dish.

We’re off for a week, and I look forward to trying more Caribbean recipes once we get back!

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I used a new-to-me technique for these tostones. It is found in the book Puerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Valldejuli (which is the English version of the classic Cocina Criolla), and also in Sky Juice and Flying Fish by Jessica B. Harris. I did a hybrid of the two recipes. I seasoned the water with adobo seasoning, per Harris. The first soak comes immediately after the plantains are cut into chunks and is 10 minutes in Harris and 15 in Valldejuli. I did 10, iirc. The plantains are then dried off and fried as usual for the first fry, then pressed as usual. Then comes the second soak. In Harris this is a 5-minute soak, while in Valldejuli the pressed tostones come back out of the water immediately. Mine were in for about a minute. Then you dry them again, and do the second fry. The result of this extra bit of faffery was the best tostones I’ve ever eaten. I will never go back to my old method (the standard double fry with no soak). The interiors were lighter and fluffy, while the crust was delicate but perfectly crisp. I made the sauce from the Valldejuli book, which involves ketchup, and which I don’t intend to repeat.

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I made the arroz con gandules from Charity Morgan’s book, Unbelievably Vegan (a book I recommend). To go with, I improved a creole chicken. It’s like what you might have with mofongo, and I’ll make it again to serve that way. I used the Daring “chicken” for the first time in a non-grilling application, and it worked wonderfully.

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Macaroni Pie is found throughout the Caribbean.
https://www.sweetandsorrel.com/macaroni-pie/

POUL NAN SOS

I tried this recipe for Poul Nan Sos (Haitian Chicken in Sauce) tonight by Gregory Gourdet (who you may remember from Top Chef). You marinate chicken thighs and legs (I just used thighs) in salt and citrus (really rubbing the cut citrus onto the chicken) along with garlic, scotch bonnets, onion, and fresh thyme. A lot of fresh thyme. A whole 1/4 cup of fresh thyme leaves. Loved the flavor, but it was 30 minutes of picking thyme leaves, so, just a head’s up there. Then you marinate for 12-48 hours. Once marinated, brown the skin and make a stew of tomato paste, yellow and red peppers, all the solids from the marinade, the liquid from the marinade, chicken stock, and a little more salt (if you think it needs it). Let it braise in a 375F oven until the chicken falls off the bone.

This was wonderful! I would caution that the citrus juice makes the skin prone to darkening pretty quickly when browning, so be careful there. I also defatted the stew, removing about a half cup of oil, before serving. However, this will absolutely be a make again dish. We had this over a mushroom and pea rice pilaf. I am looking forward to the leftovers over the next couple nights!

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Puerto Rican-ish dinner tonight. Arroz con gandules with a chuleta and some broccolini and tomato with dressing.

I used this recipe for the arroz con gandules more or less, though I only made a third and used a lot more sofrito, and also long grain rice instead of Uncle Ben’s.

For the chuleta I followed the baked version of this recipe, but I had to cook it a lot longer to get to 145 degrees. I did have a thick chop though.

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While I was searching the Web to figure out what to serve the chicken with last night, I came across several recipes for something called Black Mushroom Rice - Diri Djon Djon or sometimes Diri ak Djon Djon. Djon Djon is a very specific kind of mushroom that is used either dried or in a bouillon form (Maggi apparently makes one). Has anyone ever used this mushroom before?

Looks like I can find it on Amazon. I might have some luck in a couple of the local bodegas too.

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Really interested in hearing about this mushroom, if you find it and cook with it.

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This is all from a book called Caribbean Vegan by Taymer Mason. The author is from Barbados. I’ve had it for a while but hadn’t cooked from it. The big mound is cou-cou, which is a thick cornmeal mush with okra. You start by boiling the okra slices in salted water, and the water gets viscous with okra slime. You then pour off about half the water, and add cornmeal, stirring vigorously to remove lumps. You add in the extra okra water bit by bit as the cornmeal cooks. You then cook on low for a while. It’s shaped into a ball in a bowl, then you make an indentation on the top and cover with with a creole sauce. The “tofish” is tofu marinated with nori and Bajan seasoning, then pan-fried. It gets coated with a sauce of herbs and chiles that is finished with butter (vegan butter). There were a lot of components to this meal, but it was worth the effort. All of it was delicious, and we particularly liked the cou-cou.

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I’ve enjoyed some vegan rotis from a vegetarian Jamaican restaurant in Toronto.

One Caribbean snack you might like is the fried channa. My friend used to bring it back from Trinidad. Spicier and saltier than the Canadian-made fried chickpeas.

I’d like to do some rotis, I just have to figure out how I’ll make them gluten-free. I’ll look for the chickpeas in my Trini books. I do like roasted spiced chickpeas, so I’d probably like those.

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