Haitian Griot Served with Cuban Black Beans & Rice and Marinated Cucumber Salad

Cuban Black Beans & Rice

If I haven’t blogged much in the way of new recipes lately, it’s because not much of what we’ve been trying lately has been blog worthy. Oh, of course, it’s been edible. Maybe even tasty. But not worth sharing with the world.

But this dinner? It’s worth shouting about.

In fact, I’ll go on record and say it’s one of the best meals we’ve ever made.  And worth every minute of preparation, which is not a lot of time at the stove, but does include an overnight marinade and a couple of hours braising. So save it for a weekend dinner when you can give it the time it deserves to savor with good friends and a nice tall glass of beer.

This is not a fancy dinner, but it does make a beautifully colorful presentation, and is perfect for a dinner party for four. The main course is Melissa Clarks’ version of the traditional Haitian braised pork dish called Haitian Griot.  Marinated overnight in a spicy citrus marinade,  braised and then broiled, the meat literally melts in your mouth, while at the same time being crispy on the outside. The flavor is to die for.

Haitian Griot

We served the Griot with Cuban-style black beans and rice made using a simple but delicious recipe modified from Whole Foods. It’s not authentic, but it’s fast and not heavy the way some bean recipes can be.

The traditional accompaniment for Griot is Haitian Pikliz, or marinated cabbage. We instead served an old family stand by, marinated cucumber salad. The three dishes together on the plate provided a most wonderful complement of smoky, citrus and crispy vinegar flavors, with the rice and beans adding warmth and body.

Not to be mundane, but a good homemade guacamole and chips would be the perfect appetizer for this meal.

My daughter and her friends swooped in arrived just as we were finishing dinner, and cleaned out what we little griot we had left behind – they simply created bowls of rice and beans topped with the meat, then the cucumbers and a bit of cilantro, taking the bowls with them into their room to eat while they watched a movie. Reminded me a bit of Vietnamese or Thai barbecue – vinegar/citrus on rice with meat and cilantro in a bowl. Funny how such disparate nationalities can have such similar flavors.

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HAITIAN GRIOT ALA’ MELISSA CLARKE

Traditional griot recipes actually fry the pork in oil, so this one is a bit healthier. Our meat pieces ended up smaller and did not get as crispy as Melissa’s did – we could have definitely braised less and broiled a bit longer.  I’ve seen other recipes that use cloves and allspice in the marinade, but not being a huge fan of either, I’m happy with this recipe. Melissa’s recipe uses just one scotch bonnet chile – next time we’ll use at least two. (Traditional recipes use up to 6 bonnet chiles) Next time we may also double the garlic. This is a great all around marinade, so don’t be surprised to see it show up here as a rib recipe sometime very soon.

  • 1 small Scotch bonnet chile (be careful handling it!-some suggest wearing gloves.)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley (Cilantro would be nice…) more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, not too lean, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted) or olive oil, more as needed (We used 1 tbsp coconut butter melted into 2 tbsp olive oil

Preparation

  1. Quarter the chile and remove the seeds and inside ribs. Finely chop one quarter; leave the rest in whole pieces.
  2. Transfer chiles to a large Dutch oven. Add onion, bell peppers, parsley, salt, pepper, thyme and garlic. Stir in vinegar, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce. Mix in pork. Cover pot and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next day, remove pot from the fridge about 1 hour before cooking. and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place pot over high heat and bring liquid to a simmer; cover and put pot in oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. ( we cooked 2 hours, but in retrospect probably could have stopped at 1.5 hours.)
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove meat from pot, allowing all excess liquid to drip back into the pot and picking any bits of vegetables or herbs off the meat. Transfer meat to a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle meat with 2 tablespoons oil and salt to taste, and toss gently to coat
  5. Strain braising liquid, discarding any solids. Return sauce to pot and simmer over high heat until reduced by about half, about 25 to 30 minutes
  6. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. Broil meat, tossing occasionally, until meat is evenly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. You want it nicely browned in spots but not so brown that it dries out
  7. To serve, drizzle meat with additional oil and top with sauce, parsley and thyme leaves.

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CUBAN-ISH BLACK BEANS & RICE 

I like the basmati rice flavor here, though it is not authentic. I also use canned beans. By not cooking the beans from scratch, and just adding them towards then end, they feel lighter and have a nice individual bite rather than a goopy texture you get when you cook them for hours on the stove. But that’s just how I like them.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion,diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their liquid
  • 2 -15 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Basmati Rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Chopped, fresh cilantro for garnish
  • 1 lime, cut in 4-6 wedges for garnish

Make the beans: Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. When pan is hot, add olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, garlic and chili powder. Continue to sauté for 2 more minutes. Reduce heat to low, add diced tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Add beans and simmer 5 minutes longer to heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Make the rice: Place rice in a strainer and rinse under cool running water. Add salt to water and bring to a boil. Add rice and olive oil and bring back to a gentle simmer. Cover and keep on very low heat till done. When done, remove lid, fluff and let sit a bit before serving.

Serve: Serve  beans over rice with cilantro and lime wedges.

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MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD

Best made a day ahead of time.

  • 6 large cucumbers
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Peel cucumbers, slice lengthwise and using a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds. Then slice crosswise into thin slices using a knife or, if you have it, a mandolin. Slice the onion into thin slices and then in half across so they are not too long. Mix together in a large Pyrex bowl.

Meanwhile, mix vinegar and water in a medium saucepan, add sugar and bring to a boil. Cool slightly and then pour over cucumbers and onions and mix gently. Salt and pepper. Cover and place in fridge overnight.

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TIMING THIS DINNER

I wrote this out for future reference for myself, and thought I’d share it here.

  • The afternoon before
    • Make the cucumber salad and refrigerate
    • Make the marinade and refrigerate
  • The evening before
    • Cut up the meat, place in the marinade and into the fridge
    • Put wine and beer into fridge
  • 4 hours before guests arrive
    • Take meat out of fridge and let it sit for 1 hour at room temp
  • 3 hours before guests arrive
    • Start the meat braising. You will then make the griot up to the point that you reduce the sauce, but do not broil the meat. Just set the meat aside under foil to keep warm till you’re ready to broil and serve.
    • Set the table, gather serving platters and utensils, set up bar
    • Sedate the dog (just checking to see if you’re reading… )
  • 1.5  hours before guests arrive
    • Make the beans and keep warm till serving
    • Rinse the rice and set up for cooking, but don’t cook it till guests arrive.
    • Put the cucumber salad into the serving bowl, but keep in fridge till ready to serve.
    • Prep ingredients for guacamole, including chopping tomatoes and onions, but do not make it.  Put chips in bowl and set out.
  • When guests arrive
    • Start rice cooking
    • Quickly assemble the guacamole and serve with chips, crisp white wine or beer.
  • 15 mins before ready to eat
    • Broil the meat, heat up the sauce if it’s cooled down.
    • Plate the rice and beans.
    • Plate the meat.
    • Get the cucumber salad out of the fridge.
  • Serve.

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