Haitian polenta pie topped with salted smoked herring, tomato salsa and pickled shallots | tchakayiti.com

Haitian polenta, pie-style

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A few years back, I told you all about my olfactory peek into my neighbor’s kitchen. At the time, he was cooking what my senses had identified as mayi moulen ak aransò, Haitian polenta with salted smoked herring.

Those aromas had permeated every corner of my room, making me long for an invite at their breakfast table. An invite that never came. So instead, I wrote about it on this blog, without giving you a recipe. At the time, I also failed to share a bit of my history with this dish.

Mayi ak aransò and bright summer days go hand in hand for me.

I have committed that dish to memory as one that I enjoyed at lunch time with my siblings during our summer vacations. Not fond of summer camps, we often stayed home to our backyard and video games. To make sure we got fed appropriately, my parents had come up with a menu featuring our favorites. Polenta ranked high on that list. Not necessarily for its taste, but for the chance it gave us to play with our dinner.

See, Haitian polenta was the only dish we were allowed to play with at the table. Either to trick us into eating it or just for fun, my dad had introduced a new spin to our mayi moulen eating habits. 

Mayi moulen better known as polenta elsewhere or maïs moulu. | tchakayiti.comCornmeal, polenta, mayi moulen, or whatever you call it in your language, makes for a hot dish that takes a while to cool down. And when it comes to young kids, this means a chance to burn one’s palate. Luckily, my siblings and I knew just how to speed up the cooling process. Our dad had taught us just the perfectly fun trick to help it reach an edible temperature faster.

We had learned to turn our polenta plate into a hot sun that cooled quickly.

And I mean that oxymoron literally. Armed with a fork, we would draw rays all around the plate, eating each ray as it cooled down. We repeated this step as often as needed until we reached the center of the plate. We even turned it into a game, challenging each other to create equal length rays. Today, I am not serving you that sunshine on a plate, however.

Haitian polenta pie topped with salted smoked herring, tomato salsa and pickled shallots | tchakayiti.com

 

Instead, I am revising this staple as a rectangle Haitian polenta pie. A cool pie for that matter.

The mayi ak aransò from my childhood had the salted smoked herring cooked into it. But for the purposes of this pie, I deconstructed the dish. My prepared polenta serves as a pie crust topped with tête de maure cheese, prepared salted smoked herring, a tomato and tomatillo salsa and pickled shallots. 

That dish definitely strays from the hot mayi moulen ak aransò I grew up eating. Yet, I cannot help but notice that, with their indentations, those straight borders on the crust look just like sun rays.

Haitian polenta pie topped with salted smoked herring, tomato salsa and pickled shallots | tchakayiti.com

Polenta pie with salted smoked herring, tomato salsa and pickled shallots

This deconstructed polenta pie features layers of prepared cornmeal topped with cheese, prepared salted smoked herring, a salsa and shallots.

Ingredients

For the polenta

  • 1 cup of polenta
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

For the herring

  • 1 lb of salted smoked herring
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • Whole peppercorn
  • 1 piment bouc chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato and tomatillo salsa

  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 tomatillo diced
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • ½ purple onion chopped
  • 2-3 lime juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

For the pickled shallots

  • Shallots thinly sliced
  • White vinegar

Instructions

For the polenta

  1. In a thick bottom pan, add the water, milk and spices
  2. Incorporate the polenta and bring to a boil
  3. Lower the heat and simmer stirring frequently to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan
  4. Once the polenta is cooked, spread it on a pie dish
  5. Set aside and let cool
  6. Top your cool polenta with the cheese
  7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until your “pie crust” turns golden crispy
  8. Remove from oven and let cool

For the pickled shallots

  1. Thinly slice the shallots
  2. Fill a bowl with vinegar and add the shallots making sure they’re fully covered
  3. Place the bowl in a warm location until they turn a vibrant purple

For the herring

  1. Soak the herring in water for at least one hour to extract the excess salt
  2. Drain the herring and flake it (I usually do it with scissors)
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan
  4. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden
  5. Incorporate the herring
  6. Season with pepper
  7. Cook until the herring releases some of its water making sure not to let it fry up
  8. Finish with the piment bouc and toss
  9. Set aside to cool

For the tomato and tomatillo salsa

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with the lime juice, salt, pepper and olive oil

Putting it all together

  1. Grab your cool polenta crust
  2. Layer it with the prepared herring
  3. Top with the tomato and tomatillo salsa
  4. Garnish with the pickled shallots and serve
  5. Enjoy as a cold bite

Recipe Notes

Since it features all those layers, I kept my herring preparation simple, omitting the ingredients that make the salsa.

I also cooked the polenta in milk to make it creamier but you can use water only should you wish to do so.

I recommend that you lay the polenta as thinly as possible for bites that are easier to enjoy.

If you don’t like too much heat, cook the whole piment bouc with the herring. That will allow it to transfer its aromas to the dish without hearing things up

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