Classic Caribbean Sunday Lunch Staples
What’s better than macaroni pie and ‘stew’(stewed) chicken? Maybe macaroni pie, stew chicken and stew peas or macaroni pie, stew chicken and callaloo. I will have a separate post for those though. Macaroni pie and stewed meat is part of the classic Trini Sunday lunch and so it should be. It’s so fantastic and when you eat all components of it you really feel so satisfyingly full and delighted and also like you need a long nap.
The first time I had macaroni pie I thought wow this is like meatless pastitsio, and I absolutely love pastitsio so obviously I love macaroni pie. For those of you who haven’t had pastitsio then I could compare a macaroni pie to mac and cheese as well. Kind of a cross between both. In fact I made it once and brought it to a gathering( lime) and everyone was saying “ oh look it’s macaroni pie with meat”. All this pastitsio talk has me wondering why I haven’t made and posted my recipe for it yet. Coming soon I promise!
Ok I have to tell you, just like pelau, I have yet to taste a really good macaroni pie at an establishment. They usually are just mediocre at best. I mean they are alright when you buy them but nothing beats a homemade macaroni pie. I learned quickly that there are many ways of making it. Everyone makes there’s a little different. Some add eggs, some don’t, some use a cheese sauce some just add cheese, some use regular milk others use evaporated milk. The best recipe I was given and the best way I found making it was my mother-in-law’s way. In fact everything she makes is delicious. She gave me the recipe to this pie a long time ago. And it works the best I find. You don’t need to think about whether it will turn out or not. It always turns out perfectly. I also love it because it uses a béchamel sort of cheese sauce which is how I make pastitsio so it translated well for me. I switched it up only by frying up some garlic and onion and pimentos just before making the roux to give it a little extra flavour and I also add an egg to the béchamel for extra stickiness/binding factors.
The stew chicken is another one that has its own variations. And actually I haven’t tried anyone’s stew chicken that I hated. I mean chicken stewing in wonderful flavours and seasonings is going to taste amazing no matter what shade of brown it is. I like to use bone in meat for stew chicken because I think it adds a lot to the flavour. I will usually use thighs that I chop in half(splitting the bone) and also drumsticks. Breast is good too but I normally like my pieces smaller than a full breast so if your going to use breast meat chop it up into smaller pieces.
Now for the recipes:
- Pasta either elbow macaroni or bucatini pasta (for a 2.3ltr Pyrex dish I use 3⁄4 of a large pack of 800 grams-full pack would just make a denser macaroni pie)
- 4 cups of milk warmed or at least room temperature (add a little extra milk, water or stock to thin out the sauce if needed) cooked al dente
- 4 tbsp of flour
- 1 tsp of thyme
- 1 onion sliced then chopped very finely
- 2 cloves garlic chopped very finely
- 5-6 pimento peppers chopped very finely( optional if you don’t have access to them)
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 2 tbsp of EVOO
- 1⁄2 tsp of clove or nutmeg(optional)
- 1 & 1⁄2 cups of cheese (I like to use white sharp cheddar)
- Grease a 2.3 Ltr Pyrex dish or any preferred dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Heat up oil and butter in a medium sauce pan at medium heat
- Once melted add the onions, garlic, peppers and herbs and let everything sauté for a few minutes until the onions are soft and translucent
- Add the flour and whisk it around so it doesn’t burn for a few minutes (flour needs to cook-your making a roux)
- Add in the milk slowly while whisking continuously. Once you have added all the milk patiently whisk( so that milk doesn’t burn, and so all clumps of flour are out) until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. This usually takes 5 min to up to 10. So just be patient and keep heat at medium.
- Once ready take off heat and season with salt and pepper. Make sure to over season a little because if you don’t the pasta will be bland.
- Add 1⁄2 cup of cheese and nutmeg or clove if using and whisk well until cheese is melted and incorporated ( this will also cool the béchamel slightly)
- Add egg and whisk well.
- Pour some of the béchamel into baking dish then some of the pasta- keep alternating pasta and sauce until all are in the dish(alternating helps make sure all pasta is moist from the sauce and evenly distributed)
- Top with the rest of the cheese and place dish on cookie sheet and bake for 25 min or until top is golden brown and pie is bubbling ( feel free to broil top for a couple min if you want the top extra crispy)
- Once done let stand for a ten minutes then serve and enjoy!!
- 1 lb of chicken cleaned and seasoned with green seasoning for at least an hour but overnight is better( whole chicken cut up, or 6-8 thighs split or drumsticks)
- 2 tbsp brown sugar/Demerara
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion sliced finely
- 1-2 tomatoes sliced
- 1 tbsp of molasses browning (optional-only if needed)
- 2-3 pimento peppers chopped finely
- 1 heaping tbsp of tomato ketchup( optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1⁄2-1 cup of water
- Heat oil in a large pot to medium high(I like to use my cast iron pot) and add in your brown sugar - allow the brown sugar to caramelise to the point that it’s nice and dark, bubbling and starting to smoke - this takes a few minutes
- There is a fine line between caramelising and burning it. Burning it will result in a very bitter tasting pot of food. So if your not sure err on the side of caution until you get the hang of it and add some browning or molasses to achieve the colour you would like. Don’t over do it with the molasses either because the result will be the same bitterness. Just add a tsp at a time as needed.
- Once oil and sugar are caramelised and bubbling add in your meat cautiously because the caramel likes to spatter and burns really bad ( I use the lid as my shield) stir the meat up really well cover and let simmer for approx 10 minutes stirring and checking it every few minutes. Towards the end of the ten minutes if it’s not as brown as you would like it add in your molasses and stir well.
- Now turn up the heat to high for a few minutes and stir well and constantly until most of the moisture and juice from meat is mostly evaporated - takes only a few minutes
- Once it’s mostly evaporated add in your veggies(pimentos, onions, tomatoes, plus your ketchup and I also like to add a tsp of fresh green seasoning for extra flavour — I usually have some frozen to take from) and sauté for a couple minutes
- Add your water and stir well, cover and let simmer away for 15-30 minutes or until chicken is done cooking and tender on medium heat(check if it needs more water and stir it frequently- add a little more water if needed)
- Once cooked remove lid and cook for another few minutes to allow the sauce to reduce a little ( optional if you like a thicker sauce)