Haitian and Jamaican Patties, Traditional and Not, in Brooklyn

Haitian and Jamaican Patties, Traditional and Not, in Brooklyn

If you took a slow-motion video of yourself biting into a Haitian patty at Kafe Louverture in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, it would look like this: The outer layer of pastry would shatter dramatically, like powdery snow blasting off a pair of skis. Then your teeth would sink into the gently simmered filling — beef or lamb, maybe, punctuated with sprightly flecks of pepper.

For the dough, thank Joanne Saget’s grandmother Andrea Remy. When a 7-year-old Ms. Saget moved to Brooklyn from Haiti with half of her family, they lived with her grandmother in Midwood. The matriarch made patties daily, and eventually taught Ms. Saget her technique.

Ms. Saget updated the recipe, swapping in butter for shortening, and adding a dash of whole-wheat flour for a whisper of nuttiness. At Kafe Louverture, which she opened in 2015 with her husband, Anthony Cunningham, she is carrying on a larger family tradition than she originally thought.

“Two years ago my aunt told me that my grandmother owned the biggest bakery back in Haiti,” Ms. Saget said. “I thought she just owned a market — but my aunt said no, she made patties and she made bread.”

Patties and excellent Haitian coffee are the main draw here, and you’ll often see neighbors popping a head in to ask which fillings are currently available. The chicken and beef are prepared identically, marinated in what Ms. Saget calls “green seasoning” before their eventual sauté. The seasoning’s green and Scotch bonnet peppers are the loudest ingredients, punctuating an otherwise sultry filling with bitter, fruity and spicy outbursts.

Under Ms. Saget’s watch, dried fish are resurrected into softness, then packed into her handmade puff pastry. Dried herring soaks overnight before its time in the pan with green seasoning; in patty form, it’s smoky and salty, its toughness turned into something sturdy but delicate.

Kafe Louverture has the look of an artsy-industrial coffee shop, with exposed brick and a warm wooden counter that overlooks the street. Haitian art — portraits, woodwork — hangs on one wall, opposite a row of shelves offering hot sauce, handicrafts and coffee from Haiti.

The couple have pledged to import $250,000 worth of products this year. “We want to keep the Haitians working,” Mr. Cunningham said, considering the political turmoil that has disrupted the economy since 2018. “We want to make sure that when the country slows down, the money is still funneling to the people — the farmers, the artists.”

Just across the borough, another husband-and-wife team is reimagining traditional Caribbean patties. At Branch Patty, which pops up each weekend at Artists & Fleas Williamsburg, Sam Branch and Lisa Lloyd-Branch serve Jamaican patties with crusts that skew more colorful than their Haitian counterparts, shaped into half-moons rather than rectangles.

When the couple were first dating, they would visit Christie’s Jamaican Patties on Flatbush Avenue. The restaurant, which has since closed, had been a childhood favorite of Mr. Branch, who grew up in New York and whose family is from Barbados. Its patties were the ideal on which he modeled his own.

Christie’s and its competitors often used food coloring for their crusts’ signature ocher hue, but Mr. Branch wanted to go all natural. His chicken curry and squash curry patties — two of his best — glow with a crust made yellow from turmeric; the beef patty’s red exterior comes from paprika. He is careful about his meat, and eager to note that the beef is pasture-raised, the chicken freshly ground by a local butcher.

And while Jamaican patties are Mr. Branch’s favorite style, he is not too beholden to tradition. He uses Guyanese curry powder instead of Jamaican, for its stronger punch. And his fillings are generous, each patty a full meal, almost all of them electrified by Scotch bonnets.

People have teased the couple for their flavor combinations, Mr. Branch said. “People say, ‘Oh, that’s so … different.’ But you have to push boundaries.”

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