Sauce chien

French Caribbean salsa

This spicy salsa from the French Antilles can be spread on grilled meat, poultry, fish or shellfish, and makes a perfect dip for acras de morue, the region’s crispy cod fritters.

You can make the salsa as spicy or as mild as you like by varying the amount and type of pepper and hot sauce. My personal preference is to use a finely minced bird’s-eye pepper and to add about half a teaspoon of Asian sambal oelek, the closest equivalent I can find in Paris to French Caribbean hot pepper sauce.

As for fresh herbs, tradition in Guadeloupe and Martinique is to use parsley, but as I often have a hankering for cilantro I used a combination. Up to you.

By the way, while sauce chien translates as ‘dog sauce’, the name in fact has nothing to do with dogs. The salsa is named for a sharp knife that is widely used in the French Caribbean islands. Brand name? Couteau Chien.

The quantities below will make a small bowlful of salsa.

1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 scallion (oignon de printemps)

2 tbsp. finely chopped herbs: parsley, cilantro or a combination
1 small hot pepper
1 lime
4 tbsp. sunflower oil or olive oil
4 tbsp. hot water
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. hot sauce (optional)

Mince the onion, garlic and green part of the scallion. Place in a bowl. Add the herbs.

If using a fresh hot pepper, slice it in half, remove all the seeds and mince finely. If using a dried hot pepper, crush between paper towels or in a mortar and pestle. In either case, add as much to the bowl as you think you’ll be comfortable with.

Squeeze the lime into the bowl. Add the oil. Add the water, which should be hot but not boiling — hot out of the tap is fine. Stir to blend. Add the salt and hot sauce, and stir again.

Serve on top of grilled meat, poultry, fish or shellfish, or on the side with hot hors d’oeuvres. Serves 2-4.

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