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excerpts from The New York Times International Cook Book

1971: Craig Claiborne

Craig Claiborne: one of America's most influential culinary writers. He worked for nearly three decades as food editor and restaurant critic for the New York Times. He authored several cookbooks. This excerpt is from The New York Times International Cook Book (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers; 1971) -- an excellent cookbook that is unfortunately out-of-print. (It's not too hard to find a used copy.) These recipes are from the "Dahomey" chapter; the only chapter to include recipes from any African country. (Dahomey was the former name of Benin.) Claiborne makes no note as to how he came to include these recipes, and none from better known African cuisines such as Moroccan or South African. These seem to be authentic, given ingredients such as palm oil and shrimp powder, which must have been even rarer in America in 1971 than they are today.

The New York Times International Cook Book

Craig Claiborne

Harper & Row, Publishers; New York; 1971




Dahomey




African Fish Stew

four servings

  • 2 porgies (1 and 1/2 pounds each), cleaned but with heads and tails left on
  • All-purpose flour
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup palm oil or salad oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup fish stock or water
  • Coarsely ground red pepper flakes
  1. Cut the fish crosswise, chopping it through the backbone into two-inch lengths.
  2. Dredge the fish pieces with flour seasoned with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat oil in a skillet and cook the fish pieces in it until golden on all sides. Remove the fish from the skillet and add the onions and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, for about ten minutes, then add the stock and simmer for ten minutes. Return the fried fish to the skillet, season with salt and red pepper to taste, and continue to cook for about twenty-five minutes.



Shrimp Dahomienne

four to six servings

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup raw shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 cup ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup fresh tomato sauce or canned tomato sauce
  • 1 cup hot red pepper, seeded and chopped (optional, but recommended), or Tabasco to taste
  1. Cook the onion in the peanut oil until it starts to brown. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, about five minutes. Add the garlic and ham and cook about five minutes longer, stirring.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and cook about fifteen minutes longer, stirring frequently. Serve in a ring of Pureed Peas (see below), made either by spooning the peas into a ring and filling it with the shrimp or by putting the peas into a ring mold.



Pureed Peas

four to six servings

  • 1 and 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup butter
  1. Place the black-eyed peas in a mixing bowl and add cold water to a depth of one inch. Let stand over night.
  2. Drain the peas and pick them over to remove the outer skin, which should slip off easily. When peeled, the peas should be stark white.
  3. Place the peeled peas in a kettle and add water and cover. Add salt and pepper and simmer until the peas are tender and most of the water is absorbed, twenty minutes or longer. If any liquid remains, drain it off.
  4. Put the peas through a food mill or sieve. Heat thoroughly over low heat, while beating in the butter with a wooded spoon.



Peas and Shrimp

four to six servings

  • 1 and 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup palm oil or salad oil
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup raw shrimp, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh tomato sauce, or canned tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped hot red pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons shrimp powder
  1. Place the peas in a mixing bowl and add cold water to reach one inch over the top of peas. Let stand overnight.
  2. Drain the peas and add more cold water to cover. Add salt and pepper and simmer until the peas are tender, forty-five minutes to an hour. They should be moist but not too liquid.
  3. While the peas cook, heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook briefly, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, ten minutes. Add the ham and tomato sauce and cook, stirring, about ten more minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Add the sauce to the peas. If the dish seems to dry, add enough boiling water to bring it to the desired consistency.



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