Mechie - Chou Farci
by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas
Syrians and Lebanese migrated to Haiti in the nineteenth century and brought along their cuisine. Haitians also prepare this Arabic dish, originally cooked with lamb, with beef and hot peppers. Stuff the mechie mix in cabbage, as illustrated in this recipe. You can stuff grape leaves and eggplants as well.
This recipe is a favorite among the Antoine family, whose great grandfather migrated to Haiti from Lebanon to establish businesses. Paul Antoine, who taught his children to love both Haitian and Arabic cuisine, was born in Port-au-Prince. He later moved his family to Hinche, Haiti.
Yield: 18 to 20 servings
Ingredients - Mechi Mix:
1 pound very lean ground beef
1 pound steak, minced, or 1 pound beef chunks
3 large tomatoes, minced
1 bunch parsley, stemmed and minced
3 scallions, minced
2 large onions, minced
4 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and minced
5 cups rice, rinsed with cold water
1½ (8-ounce) cans tomato paste
4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon black pepper, or to taste
½ cup ketchup
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 small lime, cut in half
3 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
Mix ground beef, minced steak or beef chunks, tomatoes, parsley, scallions, onions, Scotch bonnet peppers, rice, 1 can tomato paste, 3 teaspoons salt, black pepper, ketchup, ½ cup olive oil, onion powder, and garlic powder. Squeeze lime into mix.
Core and parboil the cabbage leaves. Slice leaves in half and trim the rib. Use inner smaller leaves whole but remove rib if necessary to allow rolling. Each leaf should be about 3 inches in length. Cover bottom of large pot with cabbage leaves.
Take 1 tablespoon of mechie mixture and place along the rib of each individual cabbage leaf. Fold the ends of cabbage leaf over the mixture and roll up. Place rolled mechies in the pot very close to one another so they don't open up and fall apart. Make 3 tight layers. Place a small lid on a plate over the mechie to hold it in place.
In a bowl, mix ½ can tomato sauce with 3 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Pour into pot until water is leveled with the mechie. In a mortar and pestle crush garlic cloves with 1 teaspoon salt. Mix with 1/2 cup olive oil and pour over mechie. Cover pot and steam on medium low heat for 30 minutes or until water evaporates (not completely).
Mechie can be wrapped with grape leaves or stuffed in peppers or eggplants. If using eggplants, soak in salt water for 1 hour as many small eggplants as you want to stuff. Roll the eggplants with the palm of your hand to soften them. Remove leaf from top. Cut 1½-inches off the head and save the piece. Take out pulp without breaking the skin of the eggplant. Cover bottom of medium-size sauce pot with cabbage leaves. Fill each eggplant with mechie mix to 1-inch from top. Trim head that was cut off so it fits as a lid on eggplant. Place in pot very close together. Mix ¼ cup of tomato sauce with 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pour over eggplant and cook for 30 minutes on low heat. In a mortar and pestle add 1 teaspoon salt with 2 or 3 large garlic cloves and crush garlic. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and pour over eggplant and cook another 30 minutes on low heat. Make sure water does not fully evaporate while the eggplants are cooking.
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