Djondjon polenta bites & a food contest

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“Prepare a locally inspired dish. Post it on Facebook with a mouth-watering picture. Include recipe instructions and you’re set. You can do this Mégie. I believe in you.”

Such were the motivational words my college friend spoke to me during the summer.

Only she had failed to realize one thing. The contest she was asking me to be a part of required detailed proportions. If you’ve been reading me all those years, you know how I feel about those. Proportions in the kitchen are definitely not my forte.

I love to freestyle in a kitchen. I typically read recipes for inspiration, and adjust ingredients and seasonings as I go. How could she expect me to not only come up with an original recipe, but to share proportions as well? She must have been out of her mind!

Though I was reluctant at first, deep down I wanted to give it a shot. It wasn’t an impossible assignment. It would simply require a lot of discipline. If I put myself to it, I could take my time and jot notes down while in the kitchen. And that is exactly what I did.

I set out to identify my key ingredient. Being a fan of small bites, I knew I wanted to transform a local staple into an appetizer bite.

With my sister and a cousin’s help, I picked djondjon, a wild mushroom that is unique to our terroir, as the star of my dish. I made my own twist of our mayi djondjon ak zaboka.

So one summer day, I ended up in my kitchen at 10 at night with a notebook and a pen in hand. That night became a night of firsts.

I was cooking mayi djondjon for the first time. I was using measuring utensils while cooking a savory Haitian dish for the first time! The proof is in the notes below… 😉

Those scribbled words are how my winning dish came to life.

A couple of days later, I submitted my recipe online. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend the contest. It wasn’t until I got news of my qualification that I understood what that contest implied.

My mayi ak djondjon had earned me a spot at a food competition alongside professional chefs!

Needless to say I freaked out at first. I am just an amateur having fun letting her creativity come to life in the kitchen, after all.

Yet, in just a few weeks, I will be competing in Orange Beach, AL against people for whom cooking is a full-time job.

I am fully aware that my cooking skills surely won’t match that of my professional opponents. But I will still strive to do my best to shine in the Sandwich Challenge of the World Food Championships.

Most importantly, I will make sure to have fun both during the next few weeks of preparation and at the competition.

I will have fun keeping track of proportions. Proportions mean that I can finally replicate my recipes. Now that’s something worth getting excited about!

I look forward to spending endless hours in the kitchen with a notebook and a pen.

I also plan to have fun standing in that semi-professional kitchen alongside professional chefs. After binge watching the Food Network for years, I get to experience something similar to Chopped! So yes, I will have fun!

Unfortunately, this means I may be slacking even more on this blog. For that, I apologize. At least now I have a decent excuse.

To compensate for my absence, I leave you with the recipe that earned me my qualification. I truly hope you’ll enjoy it while I head back to my kitchen and notes 😉

These polenta bites are infused with a typical Haitian black mushroom called djondjon, and garnished with a spicy guacamole, a tomato chutney and piment bouc (habanero pepper) grilled shrimp.

They’re a personal take on the Haitian mayi djonjon (djondjon polenta) typically served as a main course with avocado slices.

Ingredients

For the shrimp infused djondon broth

  • 2 cups of djondjon (Haitian black mushroom)
  • 3 cups of water
  • Shrimp shells

For the polenta

  • 3 cups of the shrimp infused djondjon broth
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ¼ tsp of black pepper
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 piment bouc (habanero pepper)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the shrimp

  • 1 lb of shrimp peeled deveined with tail on
  • 4 mashed garlic heads
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ small onion chopped
  • ½ piment bouc (habanero pepper) chopped

For the guacamole

  • 1 small avocado
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 1 key lime juice
  • Chopped habanero pepper (to taste)

For the tomato chutney

  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 chopped garlic head
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper

Instructions

For the shrimp infused djondon broth

  1. Bring the djondjon and shrimp shells to a boil in 3 cups of water
  2. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes
  3. Allow to rest for about 15mns
  4. Strain the liquid and set aside

For the polenta

  1. Measure 3 cups of the shrimp infused djondjon broth
  2. Add the garlic head, habanero pepper, salt, pepper, bay leaf, oil and bring to a boil
  3. Add the cornmeal and stir constantly until the water is absorbed
  4. Simmer for about 15 minutes while stirring occasionally to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan
  5. Remove the garlic head, habanero pepper and bay leaf
  6. Spread the cooked polenta on a parchment lined baking sheet, allow to cool
  7. Freeze for about 2 hours
  8. Using a 2.5in round cookie cutter, cut the polenta into bites (yields about 12 cakes)

For the shrimp

  1. Season the shrimp with the garlic head, salt, pepper, onion, chopped habanero pepper
  2. Let marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours
  3. Grill the shrimp on a cast iron grill

For the guacamole

Mash the avocado and season with salt, pepper, lime juice and habanero pepper.

For the tomato chutney

  1. In a pan, cook the garlic in the olive oil
  2. Add the tomato
  3. Cover and simmer on low
  4. Once the tomato has softened, add the sugar, rice vinegar, salt and pepper
  5. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

To serve

Garnish each polenta bite with the guacamole, followed by the tomato chutney and top with the grilled shrimp. Enjoy!

5 Comments:

  1. Gevany

    Hi,
    Thanks for the recipe. i know how hard it is to measure each ingredient when we are cooking. Bravo !
    I’m trying to work with polenta and yucca for hors d oeuvre. Some are success and the others went straight to the trash loll.
    Anyway, Good job again

  2. Missmo

    Waouh ! Annick ! Congratulations ! Ça fait vraiment plaisir de lire ça mais aussi de vous voir. Bonnes chances pour le concours, amusez-vous bien, profitez de chaque moment avant et pendant le concours. Et merci d’avoir partager votre recette que je vais tenter de réaliser. Tenez-nous au courant de la suite. Big kiss.

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