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My Secret Formula

Updated: Mar 19

There's a tradition in Haitian cooking to basically create a homemade rub based on spices that are commonly used. I suppose it makes sense given that more often than not, the cooks are using the same set of spices on all of their meat. I have not adopted this habit for a couple of reasons: 1) It's usually made in large batches, and I never get around to using the whole batch so it feels wasteful, and 2) I've never really quite gotten the hang of what all is going in there.

Technically, you can put whatever you want in there. My mom liked to use parsley, garlic, cloves, and bell peppers. She would take these ingredients (in unspecified amounts), blend them all together, and then store them until she was ready to marinate her meat. Although there were more ingredients included in her marinade (adobo, creole seasoning, salt, chicken base), she wouldn't include these in her rub (probably because she reserved the right to adjust the seasoning as she saw fit).

While I never got the hang of creating the rub, there is something nice about knowing the base of ingredients I'm going to need. When I learned how to cook, I basically learned how to cook by feel rather than by recipe. In some ways I think that's better as it allows room for creativity and variance in tastes. However, there's always room for a baseline, a general idea of where to start from so that at least you know you're on the right track.

I started this blog for a few reasons, but one of the most important reasons to me was a way to capture real Haitian recipes to share with the world. In forcing myself to measure things out and explain the process, I was hoping for a way to simplify the mystery behind creating a Haitian dish, and I think I've discovered a working seasoning recipe that appears to work on chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. Well, I finally figured out my baseline!

I tend to scale up the salt and pepper if adding the meat to a stew, but at it's core, this is the base for all my meat. I suspect that the larger your amount of meat, the more the scale will change on the seasoning, but I've tried this on up to five pounds, and it seems to work perfectly.

The scale may be different, but it's the same set of seasonings that I'm using for vegetables and rice as well. Is it the only way to do things? No. As my sister mentioned, I don't think all Haitians use the same spices, but there does seem to be a certain base (that includes garlic, salt, and chicken base) that I think makes it feel authentic.

I'd love feedback on the merits of using a homemade rub (in addition to other spices) versus sticking to my standard set. What do you think?

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