Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Let's Try Some Chayote

French Guiana is actually officially called Guiana, but since it is an overseas territory of France, we call it French Guiana. The origin of the "French" in front of it dates back to colonial times when the Spanish, British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese all had their own territories named Guiana. (Between Guinea and Guiana you would think that there wasn't another name on earth. I know I talk about this in pretty much every post, but it drives me crazy! I need some originality here, people.) It's the largest overseas department of France and has the coolest capital city name ever: Cayenne (like the chili!). There is a lot of immigration to French Guiana. Only a little over half of its population actually was born in the territory. The majority emigrated from Brazil, Haiti, and Suriname.

Curries, seafood, and one-pot meals make up a lot of the French Guianese cuisine. Since it is on the northern coast of South America, you can imagine why seafood plays such a vital role. There is also a lot of influence from French, creole, and Asian cuisines. Because of the high rate of immigration, many people groups have brought their own cuisines to the territory to make it a big melting pot.

Chayote is a cool Mesoamerican fruit that is related to melons and squash. Before tonight, I had never tried it before. I saw it at Kroger the other day and jumped on the opportunity to use it for one of my countries. These potato-cakes showcase the exotic fruit and make a great side.

Chayote-Potato Cakes
1 chayote, grated
1 potato, grated
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 egg
¼ cup cornmeal
dash of cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp oil

Squeeze any excess moisture out of the chayote, potato, and onion. Mix them together with the remaining ingredients except for the oil. Preheat a nonstick pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tsp of the oil. Scoop out a few tablespoons of the potato mixture at a time onto the pan. Cook each side for a couple of minutes until browned. Remove the cakes to a paper towel lined plate. Cook the rest of the potato mixture in batches, adding more oil as needed.


 Poulet Colombo is a warm and hearty stew that is common in the French West Indies and French Guiana. It is made out of local produce, chicken, and an interesting spice blend called Colombo that contains toasted rice along with several other delicious spices. This stew is easy to make and goes great with some rice to cut the heat of the chili pepper.

Poulet Colombo
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scotch bonnet chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 ½ tbsp Colombo spices
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups chicken broth or water
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
1 chayote, cubed
1 eggplant, cubed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chili. Cook until the onion is tender, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile mix the chicken pieces with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice as well as salt and pepper to taste. Add them to the pan and cook until the pieces are browned all over. Pour in the water or broth, seasonings, and remaining lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables to the pot and continue to cook for another 45 minutes. Once the stew is done, stir in the coconut milk and serve.

Although I did enjoy trying chayote for the first time and will definitely use it in the future (assuming that I can find it in the future), I don't think I will be making either of these recipes again. They were not bad, but that oomph that African dishes seem to have about them was not present. I should have used chicken broth instead of water in the Poulet Colombo recipe, but I was being cheap and lazy. There would have been a little more flavor if I had used broth instead. The chayote-potato cakes were good, but I have made better ones in the past. I'm also not so certain about the recipe's authenticity. It was really hard to find information on the cuisine of French Guiana. Hopefully I can travel there one day to try it out myself.

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