A Memorable Menu for a Party Inspired by a Hatian Griot Recipe

A dear friend invited me to dinner last night. I love to be invited to his house. He's a great cook but modest about his abilities insisting he does easy things, slow cooker things, nothing fancy. Well, I say I've never had anything bad to eat at his house. Chalk that up to good recipe reading, not skimping on ingredients and taking the time to execute all the details as written. Recently he called me, "I just cooked the most amazing pork dish and you've got to come over right away and try it." Lucky for me, I couldn't get there the next day, in fact weeks went by, and so he had time to think through a menu around the dish. Instead of tasting one thing I was dazzled by several that created a package superior to any of the parts. The progression of flavors and the cumulative affect is what makes a menu memorable.

My friend was inspired by a Haitian Pork Griot recipe by Melissa Clark of the New York Times. The island / Caribbean theme led him to the bar and then to the table through classic and not so well-thumbed sources, such as Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide and Mark Bittman's The Food Matters. He also leans on the New York Times cooking app. I like it too, but it hasn't become my first reference habit.

Laird's Apple Brandy, Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum, Cointreau, Angostura Bitters make the Atlas Cocktail

Laird's Apple Brandy, Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum, Cointreau, Angostura Bitters make the Atlas Cocktail

Atlas and Tokyo Pirate Recipes

Atlas and Tokyo Pirate Recipes

Clement Creole Shrubb, Barbancourt Rhum, Murillo Sherry, Soy Sauce make the Tokyo Pirate Cocktail

Clement Creole Shrubb, Barbancourt Rhum, Murillo Sherry, Soy Sauce make the Tokyo Pirate Cocktail

Both of these drinks pack a punch -- flavor and alcohol wise -- with orange tones over dark rum. Sip very slowly to glide into the island state of mind. Both were good but I liked the Tokyo Pirate the best and was impressed that a dash of soy sauce can create such a savory note. I was so intrigued by the Clement Creole Shrubb I asked for a taste on the side as shrubs are easy to find these days. It surprised me being very sweet, instead of having an acidic edge. Learn more about it and orange liquor alternatives at the link above. A Buyer's Guide to Vintage Cocktail Books is a brief overview of old cocktail books on the Serious Eats.com site, which I lean on.

The first course was a pleasing cucumber salad that I loved for its freshness, coldness and the unctuous dressing made with avocado and orange juice. The island theme was continued here with chunky citrus fruit and shrimp. I will make this again and use it for my annual summer BBQ. I will try using dried shrimp for a salty umami pop of flavor.

cucumber and avocado salad recipe

Cold Cucumber and Avocado Chowder from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters 

The main event, the pork shoulder pieces that had been marinated overnight, simmered in the marinade and broiled, arrived hot on a platter of white rice. Not just fork tender, but succulent and expressing the development of the spices over time. Despite the chilis, not searingly hot, but bright and complex. All that marinating paid off. The side dish of pikliz (Haitian kim chee by my taste) is essential for the colors, texture and fiery flavor from Scotch bonnet chilies. When I make this recipe at my house, I will pause to take a photo before devouring it.

Last but not least, to cool the mouth and revive the appetite that was flagging, a key lime pie with a crunchy graham cracker crust from another pie recipe, topped with barely sweetened, freshly whipped cream. My request for a small slice was ignored and I ate it all and woke up this morning wishing I could have more for breakfast. This too will be recreated at my house and I may have to recreate the whole menu because it all works together so perfectly I won't be able to think of any of the recipes without the others.