Haitian Cuisine and Stories with Liliane Nerette Louis

Fri, May 29, 2009

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Liliane Nerette Louis  /Trina Sargalski

Good food and good stories are two of life’s greatest pleasures.  I usually write about food at Miami Dish, but today Under the Sun ventures into the culinary world.  Last Sunday, I saw Liliane Nerette Louis present at the Historical Museum of South Florida.  She is all about good food and good stories; she is both an honored storyteller and a masterful cook.

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On Sunday, Louis sprinkled her cooking lesson with stories and asides about Haitian food.  The cooking lesson was, in fact, more of a narration than a demonstration since the county would not allow Louis to use any kind of open flame or hot plate at the Historical Museum.

However, she did bring prepared griot, sauce, acra or malanga fritters, and pikliz for us to try.   She also demonstrated how to make Haitian juice.

Griot is a dish of small chunks of seasoned, fried pork.  The chunks are crunchy on the outside and juicy and fatty on the inside.   Louis served the griot with a flaming hot sauce made of roasted garlic, parsley, lime juice, reserved cooking liquid from the griot, shallots, black pepper, and habanero pepper.

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Malanga acra /Trina Sargalski

Malanga acra are deep fried fritters  made from the root vegetable.  Louis makes them with  peeled and grated malanga, garlic, parsley, lime juice, and habanero pepper.    She recently started adding crushed black-eyed peas to the acra.

The fritters are not traditionally served with any sauce.  Louis said: “American people, whenever I serve [the fritters], say ‘Where is the dip?'”   Even her children started to ask for ketchup with their acra.    This past Sunday, she served the acra with pikliz to appease the sauce-lovers.

Pikliz is the Kreyol word for pickled vegetables, including shredded carrots, onions, and hot peppers.

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Pikliz /Trina Sargalski

Haitian juice is a refreshing combination of ice, fresh citrus juice, and evaporated milk which “does not separate,” according to Louis.  It tastes like a citrus Creamsicle.    In fact, when Louis teaches this lesson to school children, they  freeze the juice in ice cube trays.  Sounds like a perfect summer treat.

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Louis pouring evaporated milk to make Haitian juice. /Trina Sargalski

Louis explained that she adapted the traditional Haitian recipes over time, either because she could not find the ingredients in Miami, or because the ingredients were made differently here:  “When you move to a new place, the place makes its mark on you.”  It’s the same with recipes.

RECIPES

These recipes were told in what I call “family style.”  You know how your grandmother, your uncle, or your mom recounts an old, familiar recipe that they could make with their eyes closed?  They say, “A little of this, a little of that, fill the pot up to there.”   This is my humble reiteration of Louis’ narrated recipes.

GRIOT (Seasoned and fried chunks of pork)

Ingredients

pork shoulder

fresh lime juice

sour orange juice  (My own suggestion is that if you can’t find it, try looking for “naranja agria” or perhaps even “mojo criollo” at the store.  More suggestions from Chowhound here.)

salt

Louis says, “The shoulder makes the best griot because it has more fat.”  At the store, Louis asks the butcher to cut the shoulder into bite-sized cubes.

Marinate the meat in lime,  sour orange juice, and salt for at least ten to fifteen minutes.  You can marinate the meat as long as overnight.

Drain the meat and put it in a stockpot with water.  Put enough water in the stockpot to cover the meat.

Boil for “not too long, but until there is no more water.”  You can tell the meat is done when it is fork-tender and starts to fall apart.  Remove the meat when it gets to this point, even if there is still liquid in the pot.  Keep boiling the liquid by itself until it is reduced to a thick and fatty liquid.

If you removed the meat, place it back in the pot. Now fry the chunks in their own fat.  Fry on low heat to prevent splattering, until the meat is brown and crispy on the outside and done to your liking on the inside.

If you want to make griot sauce, reserve some of the cooking liquid.  Combine the cooking liquid with roasted garlic, parsley, lime juice, shallots, black pepper, and habanero pepper to make the griot sauce.

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Louis used fresh squeezed grapefruit (seen here) to make Haitian juice, but you can use any citrus.

HAITIAN JUICE

Ingredients

iuice from 6 grapefruit

2 12-ounce cans of evaporated milk

almond extract

ice

Fill a pitcher 1/2 to 3/4 full of ice.  Pour in the fresh grapefruit juice.  Slowly pour 1 can of evaporated milk over the ice while stirring the pitcher.  Add the evaporated milk from the second can to your liking.  Ms. Louis used about 1 and 3/4 cans.  Add 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.

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