Haitian baked macaroni au gratin with ham, peppers and adobo seasoning
Happy Saturday folks!
As I mentioned the other day, we’re in the home stretch of this little journey. I’ve plotted out dishes for the next month and let me tell you, Grape and I were standing in a pile of drool in my office as I described every mouth watering dish I had planned. And then we promptly went and both had to eat lunch that second.
I swear they are all that good. Starting with this one.
The last port of call in the Caribbean is Haiti and while most of us think of the Caribbean is being somewhat summer fare with its fresh seafood and citrusy things, it can also be quite heavy, and this one crosses over quite easily to fall and will suitable mask the briskness outside.
Or at least get you well on your way to being well insulated this winter.
Before we get into it, let’s talk a little about Haiti’s food. Like so much of the Caribbean, the food is a noticeable mix of different cultures and flavors, notably French, Spanish, Middle Eastern and African. No surprise given the history of colonization in the area. The resultant cuisine has a lot of bold, in-your-face flavor typical of the area, with the air of French sophistication. Such is the case with today’s dish.
Now, you know how much of a snob I am when it comes to recipes and I do try my best to get authentic straight from the source know-how for them and thankfully more often then not, it’s not that difficult. I happen to have a Haitian coworker, the lovely Kohlrabi, who painstakingly wrote down her recipe for Macaroni au Gratin, or Haitian mac and cheese for all of us to enjoy. She notes that no two people ever make it the same, and that everyone thinks that theirs is the best. Now I’ve never had anyone else’s, but this one was pretty darn good. So good, it required multiple plate resettings for these pictures.
Make sure to keep it moist, but still firm, as a dried out, crunchy version is not that great. Kohlrabi notes this multiple times throughout the recipe and it’s important to heed the warning. I think I managed to get mine just right, but I could see how it could dry out all too easily.
Don’t like ham? Substitute 1 cup of frozen mixed veggies (the one with the corn and string beans) and sauté it with the other veggies.
I didn’t have any Adobo seasoning, so I made my own using equal parts garlic salt, coarse black pepper, Mexican oregano and turmeric and used 2 tsp of that mixture. If you already have the spice mix, just use that.
I had the impulse to used smoked paprika because it’s a like a drug to me, but forgot and then realized it totally didn’t need it. This is neither here nor there, but perhaps another flavor twist to consider.
- 1 16-oz box of penne pasta
- 2 tsp Adobo seasoning*
- Salt, to taste
- 3 TB unsalted butter
- 12 oz. evaporated milk (you may need to adjust this—it shouldn’t be swimming in it, but it should be enough for it not to dry out while baking.)
- 2 ½ cups shredded or grated parmesan cheese (either one will do, but the shredded is better. You might want to add more. )
- 1 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 crushed garlic clove (If you love garlic, 2 cloves)
- ½ to ¾ cup cubed ham
- In a large pot prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and set pasta aside.
- Preheat oven to 350℉.
- In the same pot, sauté on medium-low heat: bell peppers, onions, butter, garlic, and ham until a little tender, but not completely cooked through.
- In a large bowl, mix pasta and beaten egg until egg is thoroughly distributed.
- Add pasta back to the same pot as the veggies/ham, stir in: adobo, 2 cups grated Parmesan, 1-cup Gouda and evaporated milk to pasta. Stir ingredients until everything is thoroughly distributed.
- Pour pasta mixture into a baking dish (at least 2 ½ inches deep-The deeper the better, as you do not want the pasta to easily dry out) sprinkle remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese on top layer.
- Place pan on the middle rack in oven uncovered and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until top is golden brown. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. Do not leave it on warm setting in the oven—or again, it’ll get dry.
- Rather than the ham, people also layer ground beef or layer shredded chicken rather than stir it in. Don't like ham? Use 1 cup frozen mixed veggies
- Don't have Adobo seasoning? Make your own with equal parts garlic salt, coarse black pepper, turmeric and oregano.
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