This month, we’re all about dessert so check out this Haitian sweet — and pretty — “white dish”.
Blanc Manger (blan manjay) translates as “white dish,” literally. But I will also translate it for you in my own words—coconut jello anyone? It is found everywhere in Latin America wherever the French ruled, including Mexico and the Dominican Republic. But nowhere has it remained as popular as it is in Haiti. In fact, almost all the desserts that you will find in Haiti are of French origin, as is the blanc manger. Italy makes a similar dessert known as panna cotta, one I’m sure you are familiar with. It is basically milk or cream thickened with gelatin, sweetened a bit, and then refrigerated, no baking required. It couldn’t be easier to make. The difference with the Haitian version as compared to French and Italian is the use of canned milk products. No doubt these were easier to obtain than fresh cream and milk.
I’ve adapted this recipe with the addition of half and half instead of using evaporated milk, because it tastes better, and so why not! Another inclusion would be a can of tropical fruit cocktail. Does this sound familiar to the Jello salads we grew up with? I so remember chasing after the lone maraschino cherry or one of the two grape halves before my brothers or sisters could snag them. It was like finding the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks! Well, I think we can do better than that. Since Haiti has wild mango trees growing all over the island, let’s serve this dessert with a mango coulis instead.
You can make this dessert in a bundt pan or a jello mold. Don’t have one? Get yourself down to the Goodwill and pick one up for a buck! You can also make this in several small molds or dishes for individual servings. I’ll admit that the smaller molds will be easier to unmold, although the large one is much more impressive. But it is a whopper to try and unmold. When I did it I didn’t quite get it in the middle of my platter, but once it’s on the plate there is absolutely no nudging it over, it’s stuck there for good.
As for that mango coulis, feel free to use frozen mango chunks if that is convenient. That’s what I had to resort to when I cut into the mango that I was patiently waiting to ripen and found it all brown inside. And don’t bother trying to get all fancy by using vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. I tried that and the seeds of the vanilla bean didn’t disperse evenly, leaving unsightly black clumps everywhere!
3 envelopes gelatin
12 oz. half and half
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cans coconut milk (Chaokoh brand is excellent)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
For the coulis:
1 bag frozen mango chunks
juice of one lime or lemon
1-2 tbsp. sugar, or to taste
Dissolve the envelopes of gelatin in ¾ cup boiling water.
Heat the milk products to a simmer, then stir in the vanilla extract and the sugar. Turn off the heat and stir in the gelatin and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour into mold and refrigerate overnight.
To make the mango coulis, place the defrosted mango chunks in a food processor, add the citrus juice and sugar to taste. Process and add a splash of water if it seems too thick.
Unmold by dipping in a hot water bath or wrapping hot, wet dishtowels around the mold for just a few seconds. Watch for any melting at the edge and shake the mold to see if it’s coming loose. I left mine in the hot water bath too long and then had to refrigerate it again until solid. Invert onto serving platter. Slice and serve with mango coulis.
Note: If you are transporting this to a potluck I recommend unmolding it when you arrive, unless you have a very secure way to transport it.
Recipe and photo Courtesy of Linda McElroy
About the Author
Linda and her husband opened Ristorante Machiavelli in Seattle in 1988. After 25 years of cooking in and running a wildly successful neighborhood restaurant they sold the business and retired. Linda loves browsing through cookbooks, and the position of recipe curator provides her with a great excuse to indulge her passion. Linda hopes the dishes she tests and recommends will create a great experience for those who replicate her work in their kitchens.