Our chicken marinades are not a seasoning mix
A first communion without chicken marinades? Have you lost your mind!! Pa gen komunyon san marinade! (You can’t have a first communion without marinade!)
For many Haitian families, mine included, marinades are an intrinsic part of any first communion reception. You simply cannot have one without the other.
When I use the word marinades, I am not referring to the mixture of seasoning used to enhance food flavors that we call epis in Haiti. Instead, I am talking about a popular Haitian appetizer.
Despite their confusing name, our Haitian marinades are a well-seasoned fried batter to which we sometimes add pieces of meat or seafood, such as chicken, sausages or cod.
Throughout my childhood, these small bites were a must on every first communion reception menu. I remember actually discovering these finger-licking good marinades at my first communion reception and being delighted by their taste.
My younger brother ate them for the first time that day as well. I was 8 and he was just…. 8 months old!
I can still recall both his drooling face as he enjoyed his marinades and the astonished look on some of our guests’ faces. Yes, that baby boy ate everything! In addition to eating and swallowing chunks of sugarcane without flinching, that child also enjoyed his share of well-seasoned and spicy fried Haitian food at a very young age. His favorite, and mine as well, were our chicken marinades.
Up until today, I had no clue how to prepare this local dish. I was never quite satisfied with the recipes we tried. To me, they lacked the taste of the meat juice.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to finally try and prepare them again after a family fritay night.
Without truly understanding why, that night we had all come to agree that the last batch was the tastiest one. One of my cousins came up with the theory that rang a bell in my mind. Since these marinades had macerated longer they had absorbed more of the meat juice and seasoning.
From that day, I understood why we were not successful at preparing chicken marinades at my house.
We simply didn’t let the ingredients mingle long enough. I also decided to try and incorporate the meat juice into the batter that we usually prepare with plain water.
And that’s exactly how I prepared the chicken marinades illustrated above, which recipe I share with you below. They were sinfully delicious. My only regret is not having added more piment bouc. I hope you’ll enjoy prepping, frying and eating them as much as I did!
I first published this article on May 20, 2016. At the time, I was convinced chicken marinades were the traditional Haitian marinades. Since then, I discovered that the authentic marinades has no protein at all. They’re simply a well-seasoned fried batter. This new version highlights this nuance.
Haitian chicken marinades, aka chicken beignets
As per Haitian cooking, these marinades are a labor of love and patience. I recommend preparing the batter early. You should definitely allow a few hours for the flavors to fully develop before frying the marinades.
The recipe below is based on the proportions I used. Feel free to adjust the seasoning according to your own taste. But do note that our marinades need to be well seasoned and have some piment bouc kick.
For the chicken
- 1 lb of chicken bone-in
- 1 full garlic head
- 6 leeks or green onions
- 1 onion
- 1 bell pepper
- 2 piment bouc or to taste
- Fresh Thyme
- Fresh Parsley
- Salt & Pepper
- Sour Orange Juice
- Key lime juice
Pâte à frire
- 1½ cup of flour
- 1 cup of water
- Cooked chicken juice
- 1 pinch of baking soda
Prepare your "epis" by crushing the seasonings in a mortar and pestle. Add some lime and sour orange juice to the mix.
Season your meat and let it marinate for a couple of hours
Cook the chicken in the seasoning juice. Make sure to save the cooking juice
Once your meat is fully cooked, prepare your batter by mixing in flour, baking soda and water
Gradually incorporate the cooking juice so as to obtain a smooth batter
Add the shredded chicken to the batter and let macerate a couple of hours
Drop the batter by the spoonful in some hot oil until your marinade get golden