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Haitian Heritage Month – A Growing Appreciation of Haitian Food

Kate A
Posted by Kate A on May 26, 2022

 

When I met my husband almost 11 years ago, I was already a self-proclaimed foodie. I enjoyed trying new foods, new restaurants, and new cuisines, and my husband had to quickly learn not to eat anything until I took my picture (bless him for being so agreeable!). My husband is Haitian and until we met, I had never had Haitian food. Thankfully, his mom, his sisters and his church have kept me learning and loving Haitian food ever since! There is so much more to Haiti than the political unrest that we often hear about in the news. Haiti has a beautiful landscape, fantastic music, and delicious food that all deserve recognition.

Haiti

Haiti 2While Miami and New York have large Haitian populations, and lots of Haitian restaurants to choose from, you can try Haitian food nearly anywhere if you know where to look! My hometown of Montclair, New Jersey has a Haitian Restaurant, Saveur Creole, and if you’re local to Chicago, Kizin Creole on the north side of Chicago is a great place to enjoy Haitian food.

haitian foodA few years ago, my mother-in-law gifted me a Haitian cookbook called Haitian’s Favorite Family Recipes by Simone Laplanche. Of all the gifts she’s given me, this is my absolute favorite because it’s helped me understand more about Haitian food and flavor profiles. Of course, my food will never be as good as hers, but a girl can try! Haitian food is a Creole cuisine that is a blend of Caribbean, French, Spanish, Arab and African flavors. The flavors are bold, and can be spicy, which is perfect for me, but you can certainly tame down the heat in your own kitchen!

haitian food 2May 18 is Haitian Flag day and the month of May is Haitian Heritage Month, so it’s a great time to learn about this underrated and underappreciated cuisine. The national dish of Haiti is Soup Joumou which is traditionally enjoyed on Haitian Independence Day, January 1. It’s made of squash, beef, pasta and root vegetables and is a symbol of the freedom Haiti gained in 1804. I haven’t tried my hand at this dish yet, but I do make sure to enjoy my annual bowl!

haitian food 4Some of my favorite Haitian delicacies include fried or stewed goat, pate (which is a meat, vegetable, or fish filled puff pastry), plantains, mais souffle (which is a bechamel-based corn pudding), diri ak djon djon (Haitian black rice made with mushrooms), and pikliz (a spicy condiment of cabbage, onions, and peppers).

haitian food 3However, if we’re looking to start with the basics, at the heart of all Haitian kitchens is epis. Epis is a flavor base made with a blend of peppers, garlic, and herbs (all mostly green) that is used as a seasoning and/or marinade for the start of many Haitian dishes. Everyone has their own special way of making epis, so you can feel free to customize it to your taste.

Epis is similar to sofrito which is used in Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Latin American and Spanish cooking. Traditionally, the epis is made with a mortar and pestle, in Haitian kitchens known as a munsh pilon. However, I like to do things as efficiently as possible, so I use my blender or food processor!

Epis can be made and refrigerated for several weeks to months, so you can have it on hand whenever you need it. If you’re thinking about making a big batch, it freezes well, too. I like to use an ice cube tray and pop the cubes in plastic bags to have at the ready. Epis is a guaranteed way to add flavor to your dishes, and would be the perfect marinade for all your grilling this summer!

Kate blog

Epis

Scroll down for printable version of this recipe

Prep time: 10 min

Active time: 2 min

Total time: 12 min

Makes about 3 cups

 

12 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 green bell peppers, cut into large pieces

1 jalapeno (you can use scotch bonnet if you like it really hot!), cut into large pieces

2 celery stalk, cut into large pieces

1 onions, cut into large pieces

2 bunches scallion, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

Note: Some people add chicken base or a bouillon cube, some add rosemary, some add basil, and some use different color bell peppers so feel free to experiment this recipe to your tastes.

epis mise1. Add ingredients to your food processor and blend until smooth.

ingredients in food processorblended episblended epis 22. Store in a jar or airtight container for several weeks/months, or in the freezer.

epis in containter3. Use as a flavor base/marinade for meats, stews, rice, etc.

Now that we’ve learned about building flavor with Epis, I highly recommend The Chopping Block's Flavor Dynamics class that goes more in depth about balancing flavors. That in-person class is being offered at Lincoln Square on:

You’ll learn all about seasoning and marinating in our grilling classes! Check out our Grilling Boot Camp for a day-long deep dive into grilling, smoking, marinating and brining. And if you really want to take your cooking to the next level, join our Culinary Boot Camp. We have a few seats left in our Monday through Friday sessions starting June 6 and August 29, and we have a 5 consecutive Sunday class starting July 10!

See our class calendar

 

Yield: 3 cups
Author:
Epis

Epis

Prep time: 12 MinTotal time: 12 Min

Ingredients

  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 green bell peppers, large pieces
  • 1 jalapeno (you can use scotch bonnet if you like it hot!), large pieces
  • 2 celery stalk, large pieces
  • 1 onions, large pieces
  • 2 bunches scallion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to your food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Store in a jar or airtight container for several weeks/months, or in the freezer
  3. Use as a flavor base/marinade for meats, stews, rice etc.

Topics: Recipes, haiti, haitian food, epis

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