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Dive into Haitian Flavor: A Guide to Poisson Gros Sel

Poisson gros sel - Poisson Creole or Creole Fish -

Haitian cuisine is a vibrant tapestry of influences, blending indigenous flavors with French, African, and Spanish accents. Among its most beloved dishes is Poisson Gros Sel, a simple yet stunning fish stew that captures the essence of Haitian comfort food.

What is Poisson Gros Sel?

The name translates to “fish with big salt,” though the dish itself isn’t overly salty. It’s typically made with red snapper, poached in a flavorful broth infused with aromatics like onions, garlic, thyme, bell peppers, and epis (a Haitian condiment made with Scotch bonnet or Habanero peppers, herbs, and spices). The result is a symphony of textures and tastes – tender fish, vibrant vegetables, and a rich, herbaceous broth that’s both comforting and invigorating.

Poisson Creole or Creole Fish is another version of the Haitian dish Poisson Gros Sel. There are many ways of cooking fish, and most of the spices are always the same. You will find many similarities with Haitian recipes for Creole Fish, but the cooking methods may differ.

Why is it special?

Poisson Gros Sel is more than just a dish; it’s a cultural touchstone. It’s a staple at family gatherings, a celebratory meal, and a reminder of home for Haitians around the world. Its simplicity belies its depth of flavor, and the fresh, local ingredients speak to the resourcefulness and culinary wisdom of the Haitian people.

Key Features of Poisson Creole:

  • Spices: The defining characteristic of Poisson Creole is its use of a wider range of spices compared to Poisson Gros Sel. Think cumin, cloves, and bay leaves, adding depth and warmth to the broth.
  • Cooking Method: Poisson Creole is usually cooked by directly adding the fish to the simmering broth. This allows the flavors to infuse the fish more readily.
  • Texture: The fish in Poisson Creole tends to be flakier and more delicate due to the longer simmering time.

How to make it?

The beauty of Poisson Gros Sel lies in its versatility. The focus is on the quality of the fish, usually red snapper, and the natural flavors enhanced by a simple broth of onions, garlic, thyme, epis, and, of course, coarse sea salt. There are countless variations, each reflecting the cook’s personal touch and family traditions. Here’s a basic outline to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 1 red snapper: The star of the show! Choose a whole fish weighing around ½ – 1 pound, or opt for fillets for quicker cooking.
  • 1 lemon or lime: Zesty citrus helps clean, adds brightness and cuts through the richness of the sauce.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil: For healthy fat and browning the aromatics.
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste: The base of the flavorful sauce, adding depth and umami.
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves: Adjust based on your spice preference. Garlic infuses the dish with fragrant warmth.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley: Fresh herbs bring a touch of vibrancy.
  • 2 thyme sprigs: Woody, earthy notes enhance the complexity of the flavor profile.
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped: Adds sweetness and acidity to the sauce.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped: Aromatics like onions build the flavor base.
  • Hot pepper to taste: Habanero or scotch bonnet peppers add fiery heat, while hot sauce offers a milder alternative. Adjust according to your spice tolerance.
  • ¾ to 1 cup warm water: Creates the sauce and allows the flavors to meld.
  • Salt and pepper: Seasoning essentials to bring out the best in every ingredient

Instructions:

  1. Prep the fish: Cut the lemon/lime in half. Use one half to rub the fish inside and out, squeezing the juice for extra flavor. Rinse under cold water, pat dry, and place in a shallow dish. Reserve the juice from the other half.
  2. Season and marinate: Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add garlic, parsley, thyme, onion, and finely chopped hot pepper (or hot sauce). Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to penetrate the fish.
  3. Build the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add tomato paste and stir until it blends with the oil. Introduce the chopped tomato and cook until it softens slightly.
  4. Infuse the flavors: Incorporate the marinade spices into the tomato mixture, letting them cook for 1-2 minutes. This releases their aromatic essence into the sauce.
  5. Gently cook the fish: Place the seasoned fish on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle with the reserved lemon/lime juice. Gradually add warm water, basting the fish with the sauce as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Simmer and baste: Cook the fish, turning it once gently to avoid breaking the delicate flesh. Continue basting until the water is absorbed and the fish is cooked through (5-10 minutes for whole fish, adjust for fillets).
  7. Uncover and finish: Uncover the pan and baste one last time. When the fish appears fully cooked, please remove it from the pan and serve hot.

Tips:

  • Serve Poisson Creole with fluffy rice, plantains, or your favorite Haitian sides.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness to your liking.
  • For a thicker sauce, simmer for a few minutes longer after adding the water.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated gently.

Poisson Gros Sel: Simplicity in Elegance

Poisson Gros Sel, which translates to “fish with big salt,” is a more rustic and minimalist dish. The focus is on the quality of the fish, usually red snapper, and the natural flavors enhanced by a simple broth of onions, garlic, thyme, epis, and, of course, coarse sea salt.

Key Features of Poisson Gros Sel:

  • Simpler Spice Palette: The emphasis is on the natural sweetness of the fish and the subtle notes of epis.
  • Cooking Method: Poisson Gros Sel often involves cooking the fish on top of a bed of aromatics like onions and herbs. This infuses the fish with flavor without overcomplicating the broth.
  • Texture: The fish in Poisson Gros Sel tends to be firmer and more moist due to the shorter cooking time and the caramelization from the aromatics.

Beyond the Recipe: A Cultural Connection

Poisson Creole ore Poisson Gros Sel are more than just meals; this dish is a cultural touchstone in Haitian cuisine. It represents family gatherings, celebrations, and a connection to Haitian heritage. The simplicity and versatility allow it to be adapted to personal preferences and family traditions, making each preparation unique and special.

Poisson gros sel -
Poisson Creole or Creole Fish -
Poisson Gros Sel | Poisson Creole or Creole Fish

So, are you ready to excite your palate?

So, embark on this culinary adventure and experience the magic of Haitian flavors! With each bite of tender fish and vibrant sauce, you’ll be transported to the heart of Haitian cuisine.

Bon appétit!

DSC03757 e1416747491268 2

Poisson Creole or Creole Fish

Poisson Creole or Creole Fish is another version of the Haitian dish Poisson Gros Sel. There are many ways of cooking the fish and most of the spices are always the same.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main Course, Main Dishes
Cuisine Caribbean, Haitian Cuisine
Servings 2
Calories 642 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 red snapper about ½ – 1 pound, whole or cut in half
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 crushed garlic cloves depending on size
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large tomato seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • Hot pepper to taste or habanero or scotch bonnet hot sauce
  • ¾ to 1 cup warm water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Prep the fish: Cut the lemon/lime in half. Use one half to rub the fish inside and out, squeezing the juice for extra flavor. Rinse under cold water, pat dry, and place in a shallow dish. Reserve the juice from the other half.
  • Season and marinate: Season the fish with salt and pepper. Add garlic, parsley, thyme, onion, and finely chopped hot pepper (or hot sauce). Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to penetrate the fish.
  • Build the sauce: Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add tomato paste and stir until it blends with the oil. Introduce the chopped tomato and cook until it softens slightly.
  • Infuse the flavors: Incorporate the marinade spices into the tomato mixture, letting them cook for 1-2 minutes. This releases their aromatic essence into the sauce.
  • Gently cook the fish: Place the seasoned fish on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle with the reserved lemon/lime juice. Gradually add warm water, basting the fish with the sauce as you go. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Simmer and baste: Cook the fish, turning it once gently to avoid breaking the delicate flesh. Continue basting until the water is absorbed and the fish is cooked through (5-10 minutes for whole fish, adjust for fillets).
  • Uncover and finish: Uncover the pan and baste one last time. When the fish appears fully cooked, remove it from the pan and serve hot.

Notes

  • Serve Poisson Creole with fluffy rice, plantains, or your favorite Haitian sides.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness to your liking. For a thicker sauce, simmer for a few minutes longer after adding the water.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated gently.

Nutrition

Serving: 2gramsCalories: 642kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 95gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 167mgSodium: 427mgPotassium: 2369mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 1463IUVitamin C: 57mgCalcium: 198mgIron: 2mg

Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.

Keyword fish recipes, poisson gros sel, red snapper, seafood recipes
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Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.

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Corn Allergy:

Always choose ingredients without corn or corn derivatives.

Originally published on November 23, 2014. Revised and updated to add additional content.

2 Comments

  1. Can’t Get Red Snapper Where I Live. When I Lived In NY, I Had Friends From The Islands. One Of Them Fixed A Dish That Looked Much Like Yours. Only Thing, They Fried The Fish First With Less Indregents. I Forgot How It Was Made. But It Was GOOD. Can You Suggest A Couple Of Fish That I Can Substitute To Make The Dish.

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