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lundi 9 novembre 2015

Grandchamps Welcomes You to Haiti, via Bedford-Stuyvesant

In a photograph on the wall of Grandchamps, a Haitian restaurant near the eastern edge of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, a woman in a sundress and long earrings carries a plate of seemingly just-gathered string beans. The image is bucolic and sternly glamorous at once, a reminder to the chef, Shawn Brockman (who happens to be the woman’s son-in-law) that she has trusted him with her recipes and he had better watch what he’s doing.
Mr. Brockman grew up in Indiana, of German, Dutch and Scottish stock; his wife, Sabrina, has roots in Cap-Haïtien, a port city in northern Haiti. (The woman in the photograph is her mother, Françoise Grandchamps.) They live a few blocks from the restaurant, which they opened in June.
“I never cooked Haitian food,” Ms. Brockman said. “I could never be as good as my mother.” So the task fell to her husband, who dutifully trailed his mother-in-law in the kitchen and learned her ways.
This may explain the generous maternal quality of his dishes. His griot is as fattening as it should be: hunks of pork shoulder inscribed with Scotch bonnets and lime, braised until near collapse and then tossed in a frying pan for a crackly veneer.
Other plates speak of patience, like stewed chicken bright with tomato, underscored by needles of thyme; and legume, a meld of chayote squash, eggplant and a crowd of supporting vegetables, cooked and then mashed with a pilon (pestle) until their borders disappear.
“When we go to Haiti, I’m always looking over the shoulders of the women who are cooking,” Mr. Brockman said. They would be proud of his excellent pikliz, a hash of cabbage, carrots and jumpy Scotch bonnets, bathed in lime and vinegar long enough to give off a hum of heat without losing crunch.
Akra, plump fingers of fritters with creamy interiors, are made with malanga, a taro-like root vegetable, and stoked by Scotch bonnets. Ragged rounds of unripe plantains are fried, flattened and fried again to make crispy banan peze, whose pique comes from a dunk, between bouts of frying, in Tabasco. Rice is cooked in liquid left over from boiling dried djon-djon mushrooms and emerges almost ashy in color, its loamy flavor like a conflagration of balsamic vinegar, soy and truffles.
The Brockmans want to evangelize on behalf of Haitian food, but also serve the neighborhood. So in the morning there are croissants and bagels. Later in the day, Mr. Brockman repurposes a few Haitian classics as sandwiches: stewed chicken tucked into a pita with watercress and herb mayo; griot boosted by rémoulade; salt fish tempered by avocado.
For dessert, there’s a play on bananas Foster with sweet plantains swapped in, inflamed with rum and then mollified by vanilla ice cream from Lady Moo-Moo, a shop nearby. This is lovely, but the revelation is pain mais, a wedge of not-quite cake or pudding, bound by faintly sweet corn flour, dense with coconut milk and condensed milk and haloed with a ring of canned pineapple, overlaid by a long-stemmed maraschino cherry. (The recipe comes from Florette Denasty, a line cook.)
The broad, high dining room is trimmed in sunny yellow tile and topped with a white pressed-tin ceiling. Above, a light fixture of pipes and Edison bulbs suggests an inverted menorah. In a corner leans a domino table, the tile racks framing images from Jalousie, a shantytown in Port-au-Prince. At the back, a row of shelves stands under the banner “Archie’s Grocery” — the name of the previous tenant, whose history the Brockmans honor by stocking not artisanal exotics but basics (Cheerios, Barilla pasta, sriracha).
Service is unhasty, peaceable and somewhat do-it-yourself: Customers place orders at a counter and fetch drinks, like candy-toned Cola Lacaye, from the freezer. But the cashier, doubling as waiter and at times the only one on the floor, ferries food to tables and hands out sheaves of cutlery, each secured with the tiniest of strings, tied in a bow.
One evening, when I handed him a tip, he looked taken aback and tried to refuse it. When I insisted, he waved toward the kitchen and said, “I’m going to share this with everyone.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/dining/grandchamps-welcomes-you-to-haiti-via-bedford-stuyvesant.html?_r=0&module=CloseSlideshow&region=SlideShowTopBar&version=SlideCard-6&action=click&contentCollection=Food&pgtype=imageslideshow

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