What is Epis, the Haitian seasoning base that gives cooking its serious flavor?
And while batches made on a large scale for commercial use may require a fixed recipe, in home kitchens, that’s another story. Chef Cybille St. Aude-Tate of Honeysuckle projects has a standard recipe for catering, pop-ups, and store sales. But his house bottle has no rules. “In my opinion, there are two philosophies surrounding episOne that says you buy ingredients specifically to make that standard batch and the other that says you use what you have in your fridge to flush out excess or control waste. My domestic lot is a hybrid of the two! If there is a certain ingredient that is not in the standard recipe or something that I have in abundance, I will use it! This “do-with” mentality is the foundation of Caribbean cuisine.
How to make ears?
Once you’ve gathered all of your ingredients, you just mix them up. Traditionally, this would be done in a pestle (mortar and pestle) but today most chefs agree that convenience wins. Add your ingredients to a blender or food processor all at once and run them quickly until they are smooth and relatively loose.
How to use epis?
When it comes to how to use cobs, there’s a lot more consensus around the answer: put it in everything!
It’s a traditional marinade for fish, chicken or beef, but the possibilities don’t end there. “I add it to soups for more depth, sometimes at the beginning when I’m sweating aromatics and sometimes at the end for a last boost. I mashed it with soaked cashews for a Haitian green goddess. I also like adding it to cooked or candied vegetables to add an extra level of flavor, ”says Chef Grégory Gourdet, which the recipe for diri kole ak pwa is also based on the seasoning base.
Nadege adds hers to hummus and other dips, and Cybille has used it as a base for compound butters to add to steamed clams or grilled oysters, as well as in dressings, broths, and condiments like mustard and aioli. AT Grandchamps in Bed-Stuy, Executive Chef Shawn Brockman uses cobs in beer battered fish, hash potatoes at brunch, and even egg dishes. Personally, I will add cobs when I’m feeling too lazy to chop up a bunch of seasonings or don’t know which flavor direction I’m going. A spoonful mixed with sautéed green vegetables or incorporated into a frittata is a game-changer.
Once you’ve been inducted into the Cult of the Ear, go ahead and make an old jackpot. It will keep for at least a few weeks in the fridge, but I’m not ashamed to say that I once found a half-empty jar hidden in the back of my fridge that was easily two months old and it was still good. If you’re responsible, divide it into portions (ice cube trays are great for this) and put it in the freezer. You can put it in your soups and stews like this, or let it thaw a bit before sautéing it as a base.
A key to making ears is to understand that there is no to the right path. Every household does it differently. As Haiti has the largest population in the Caribbean, with an extremely diverse geographic landscape, it’s no wonder that there are as many ways to cook a dish as there are Haitians.