This vibrant appetizer — full of plenty flavourful ingredients — is “Haiti in one bite,” says Nahika Hillery. “Smoked herring (aranso) and green plantains are staples in our cuisine. They’re versatile ingredients and found in many other popular Haitian dishes,” Nahika says. “Can’t find smoked herring? No problem. ‘Chiktay’ means to shred and you can shred any cooked fish or meat to use in this recipe (just skip the desalting) and still enjoy the bold Haitian flavours.”
Chiktay Aranso Stuffed Plantain Cups
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
4-6 smoked herring
½ cup olive oil
1 finely diced carrot
1 finely diced red onion
1 cup finely diced green bell pepper
1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1 cup finely diced orange bell pepper
2 finely chopped Scotch bonnet chiles (including the seeds), plus 1 whole Scotch bonnet chile
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 whole cloves
1 tsp chicken bouillon powder or to taste
½ tsp adobo seasoning (optional based on saltiness of herring)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 sprig fresh thyme
Roughly chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 cups frying oil
2 green plantains
Finely diced tomato, finely diced avocado and sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Tostonera (plantain press), optional
1. Remove the saltiness of the herring by placing it in a bowl of cold water and allowing it to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the water, then place the herring in a pot of water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. The herring should taste no more than mildly salty; if it is still salty, boil for another 5 minutes and drain. Shred the herring with 2 forks, removing any large bones.
Tip: Salt is used to preserve smoked herring, so desalting is crucial to avoid an overly salty dish.
2. Pour the olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and red onions and cook, covered, for 2 minutes. Add the green pepper, red pepper, orange pepper and chopped Scotch bonnet chiles and cook, covered, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional minute.
3. Add the shredded herring. Puncture the whole Scotch bonnet chile with the 2 cloves and add it to the skillet. Add the chicken bouillon, adobo seasoning, garlic powder, thyme, some parsley and lime juice. Mix everything well. Cover and let cook down for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Discard the whole Scotch bonnet and thyme sprig.
4. Pour the frying oil into a large skillet and set over medium-high heat. Peel the plantains and cut each into 4 to 5 pieces. Fry the pieces until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and press each piece of plantain flat; you can use a plantain press or the bottom of a small heavy pan or a plate. Mold the plantains into cup shapes (you can use a lemon squeezer or a tostonera with a rounded shape). Carefully fry the plantain cups again for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the cups on a paper towel-lined plate or on a wire rack and sprinkle lightly with salt (optional).
Tip: Green plantains, not ripe ones, are best to use to create sturdy cups.
5. Fill the fried plantain cups with the smoked herring mixture. Garnish with diced tomato, avocado and sour cream if using and enjoy!