Epis – Haitian Marinade and Cooking Base

Let’s just jump right to the good news – Andy started watching True Blood! I know that most of you don’t really know me well enough to know my tv preferences, but let me just tell you that anything HBO-related is a pretty safe bet. And True Blood is certainly no exception. I’m not really into all of the vampire hubbub and werewolves, were-panthers (wth?), maenads, shifters… not really my thing. I do, however, love good storytelling, good casting, and good cinematography. And if it has a complex storyline with all kinds of tangents and twists and drama, then sign. me. up. Throw in some rednecks for good measure and to remind me a little bit of home, and you have literally struck gold. Highly recommended, unless you like don’t violence, butts and boobs, blood, generalized gore, language, drug use and incest… but other than that, it’s great!

Aside from all that going on, there is also a lot of political, racial, and feminist ideals that are constantly progressing throughout the show. I personally love how it ties in some other cultures (Mexican, Haitian, and Greek) and is able to provide a little bit of insight into their own respective supernatural beliefs. Which got me into thinking… I know a lot about Mexican and Greek cuisine, but I know next to nothing about much of the cuisine throughout the Caribbean. So I started doing a little research and came across some of Haiti’s most popular national dishes – Griot, which is a marinated pork that slow-cooked and then deep fried; Pikliz, a shredded slaw that is similar to El Salvadorian curtido, but is pickled instead of fermented; Epis, a cooking base and marinade that is similar to a sofrito in Spanish cuisine.

From what I learned in my admittedly small amount of research, is that there doesn’t seem to be a definitive recipe for any of these things, and is generally a little bit different in each household. Some make it with cilantro (which someone emphatically put them on blast in the comments saying how absolutely wrong that is), some choose to make it with as many as 20 cloves of garlic (hey girl, I see you!), and then there are some who seem to be strict purists and only use a handful of ingredients. Either way, I can’t imagine that any variation on this would end up tasting bad at all. So make it with whatever you have on hand, and use this recipe as a sort of guideline towards a finished product.

The only downside to making epis is having to peel so much garlic, but believe me – it’s delicious.

This stuff is garlicky, pungent, powerful, packed with flavor, and has a kick of spice from the habanero. Traditionally, Haitian cooking uses scotch bonnets for their heat source, but they can be tricky to find in the U.S. I saw it recommended in many recipes that habaneros are a perfect substitute, and are much easier to find. You can tailor it to be more or less spicy, more vinegar-y, and less garlicky (although I have no idea why would ever want that.) Make it however you want because no matter what, it’s a total flavor bomb.

Popularly used as a marinade for meats, you can really use it for whatever you like. I saw many posts about using it similarly to a sofrito, and using it as the starting component to many dishes. I also saw recipes with it being added to rice, soups, stews, grilled veggies, or simply served as a sauce on the side to accompaniment the main dish. It’s uses are apparently endless, and I look forward to all of you trying different things with it! (Keep a look out for a recipe coming soon featuring epis!)

Epis – Haitian Marinade and Cooking Base

  • 2 bell peppers, one each green and red
  • 3 scallions
  • 10 sprigs parsley, stems trimmed below first leaves
  • 4 sprigs cilantro, stems trimmed below first leaves
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 habanero or scotch bonnet, de-stemmed; without seeds if you want it tamer
  • 3 whole cloves or 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1/2 tsp paste; sub vegetable bouillon if desired
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • Any combination of lemon, lime, sour orange juice
    • you may also use a combination to suite your taste, but roughly 1/2 c. is needed
  1. Place all ingredients into a large blender or food processor and pulse to roughly chop, and then puree until it has the consistency of applesauce.
    • Consistency may vary due to personal taste and ingredients used or substituted. You may also need to place some ingredients in first and puree to make more room for the rest of ingredients.
  2. Pour epis into a large mason jar or other airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.
    • Again, the longevity will depend on the combination of the ingredients used, and how much acid and things like that are in the epis.

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