France is largely a Roman Catholic country, although most
people don’t attend mass on a regular basis, except for Christmas and Easter... maybe. It's said a Frenchman attends church four times during a lifetime: for his christening,
first communion, wedding and funeral.
I usually recommend this recipe as an appetizer in February or early March, for Lent, as it's a fish recipe:
That also offers me an excuse for slipping in a recette antillaise, a West Indian recipe. While
the sun once never set on the British Empire, France was no slouch either in that category. French colonies dotted the globe: Africa, the Far East, eastern Canada, many
Pacific islands... and even French Guyana in South America as well as several islands in the Caribbean. My personal link, through the family of my children and my ex, is to
Martinique. Madinina - the Island of Flowers - as it was called in the Carib language of its inhabitants when Christopher Columbus “discovered” it in 1502.
There are many typical créole
recipes, and accras is one that has crossed over to many French plates and palates, provided there's not too much piment (hot pepper). Although it's a traditional appetizer made with salt cod
- it's a poor man's dish - famous chefs now often replace the cod with crabmeat. I love crab, but I
find it far too bland to stand up to the other ingredients. So let's stick with the classics.
Accras are small puffs, so the cod must be shredded rather than cut into hunks. Shredding also
releases more taste. Fingernails come in handy here. Be sure to weed out any skin, bones or
“stringy bits”. Another heads-up: you might want to wear rubber gloves to cut the chili pepper
because if you get it on your hands and then touch your eyes, it'll really burn! And for the parsley,
a Frenchwoman taught me to place the leaves in a jelly glass and snip them with scissors until
they're minced; I find this so much easier than using a knife and cutting board. Lastly, remember
that, although you've soaked the cod, it was salt cod to begin with, so go sparingly with the salt shaker.
So here's the recipe, as dictated to me by my ex - who's a West Indian chef par excellence.
Enjoy this bit of Caribbean sunshine, with or without a side of rum.