Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sauce Pois

Blogging Marathon #25
Theme: Cooking with Alphabets - S, G, N

First of all, Purim began a few hours ago at sunset so I wanted to wish a Happy Purim to all my Jewish readers. Enjoy the holiday!...& if you haven't made your Hamentaschen cookies yet, do check out my recipe here! the guilty feelings continue for having so little Haitian recipes on this blog when I am 1/2 Haitian.  Hopefully, by the end of year 2013, I will have posted enough recipes so I can put aside the guilt.

When I went away to college at the University of New Mexico, this is when I realized how much cultural foods are a part of who we are.  Except for Mexican and Native American, New Mexico was hardly the center of International cuisine.  I was introduced to sopaipillas and Navajo Fry Bread at our dining hall, but a plantain had never entered the kitchen.  It wasn't the fancy or complicated foods that I craved when I was away.  Sure I had always enjoyed a good bowl of lambi (Haitian stewed conch) or my Mom's curry chicken, but that wasn't what I craved. I wanted a bowl of rice and beans cooked the Caribbean way; not the Mexican way and some fried plantain.  One time, when I couldn't take the deprivation any longer, I went on a quest with my roommate in search of plantain.  We did have access to a kitchen, that was rarely used by the students.  It took us a month to find it at a special International Market and it was so expensive - outside of the budget of us poor college students.  We treated ourselves once and then the deprivation continued.

I remember on my first visit back home, my parents asked me what I wanted to eat and they were prepared to make anything I wanted.  All I wanted was rice and beans.  I refused to eat the meat and vegetables they prepared with it, for dinner.  For days, lunch and dinner was just a bowl of plain rice and beans.   I remember my Dad especially, shaking his head in absolute bewilderment that I would be happy eating just rice and beans for days. In any Caribbean household, rice and beans is almost a daily occurrence.  It is something we take for granted and you have no idea how much you will miss it until you have no access to this dietary staple.

The first couple of days I ate the one pot dish of rice and pigeon peas popular on most islands.  I then requested sauce pois, which is a standard Haitian dish.  It is a thick bean sauce poured over fluffy white rice.  Although in recent years I rarely eat processed white foods like white rice, white sugar, etc., this is an exception.  It just wouldn't taste the same over brown rice.  There is nothing like a simple bowl of white rice and sauce pois to bring on the feelings of nostalgia and carefree childhood.

Sauce Pois
Serves 4
1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1 bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
4 scallions
12 blades of chive
1/2 Scotch Bonnet Pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
a large handful of parsley
4 1/2 cups water
salt, to taste

Traditionally, the spice paste would have been ground by hand using a mortar and pestle.  However, I choose to embrace modern conveniences and my best friend, the food processor, came to my rescue.

Using a food processor, process the scallion, chives, bell pepper, garlic and parsley until chopped very fine.
In a large pot, combine spice paste, 4 cups of the water, Scotch Bonnet, thyme and beans.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Let cool for a few minutes.
Remove the Scotch Bonnet and thyme and discard. Puree most of the beans and water, leaving maybe 1/3 cup of whole beans in the pot.
Return the pureed beans to the pot and stir in the rest of the water.
Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add salt, to taste.
Serve over white rice.

The variations to this recipe are endless and I make it a little different every time.  It all depends what's in the refrigerator.  No bell pepper; I just omit it.  Exchange the scallions for onions or use shallots instead.  Some people use less herbs.  They prefer to just use onion and garlic with only a sprig or two of parsley and thyme.  Sometimes smoked/dried pork is also added and some people add a little coconut milk at the end.

It's all a matter of personal preference and family customs.  Hope you enjoy this little bit of Haiti on your plate!

While many an American would call Fried Chicken or Mac & Cheese comfort food, this is the ultimate comfort food to me!

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#25

 ...linking to Favorite Recipes: non-Indian food hosted by CookCookandCook

Update: Linking to Simply Food's Flavours of Caribbean hosted by The Spicy Pear

Chef Mireille
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  1. Ah it surely sounds like our need for our comfort food when we get back home Mir, sounds so good..:)

  2. Even when I returned from hostel, I used to ask mom for a very simple lunch which includes rice and a gravy. We surely miss it in hostel. Very nice write up Mir. The sauce pois looks nice and it resembles the gravy we prepare here in India...

  3. Replies
    1. your description of rice and pigeon peas sounds so similar to our dal-chawal. You're right. We never realise how much our growing up foods define us till we have no access to it

  4. Nice write up Chef.Very much comfortable food.

  5. I had this yummm sauce with a frittata and I have been a fan since then. I never knew what it was called. Thanks for the details Mer. Appreciate the fact that you remember such finer things in life.

  6. This is a classic example of comfort food. What can be more inviting than a bowl of rice with bean gravy on top :) Reminds me of my mother's cooking!

  7. I can very well understand your feelings of missing the comfort food of our choice. This one sounds very much like rajma masala with a different blend of spices!

  8. You sound like a south Indian and as Harini said, I can truly understand. Our comfort food over centuries has been rice and beans too.
    This sauce can work as a filling soup too.

  9. I liked the way you have written this post. I can really visualize you and your friend hunting for plantains and then being shell shocked at the price :).

    We realize the worth of the most basic, simple, taken for granted things only when we are away and cannot have it any more!

    Nice sauce, btw. How do you eat this? Is it like dal-chawal where you just pour it over the rice and mix? Do you have any side dish to go along with this?

  10. When i saw the name i thought it might a sauce with green peas, coz petit pois means green peas in french, but i was completely surprised to this dish Mir, since i had mom's foods everyday i never missed her foods, can guess it..

  11. Nice write up,the sauce looks yummy and healthy,must be a flavorful one...

  12. Lovely post Mir. I can totally relate to you -- when I came to the US 12 years ago, going to an Indian grocery and getting the veggies was very rare. I visited Indian 1.5 years later and all I wanted was bottle gourd, bitter gourd etc.
    Sauce pois sounds so hearty & yumm!!

  13. Liked your write up Mir.We sure miss the comforts of home cooked food when we stay away. I have had that experience too.
    This looks like a simple dish but very comforting and sounds so much like Indian food.


Thank you for your feedback. All comments are appreciated.
Chef Mireille

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