Why It Works
- Sofrito is the true workhorse of many savory Puerto Rican dishes. This herby and fragrant seasoning base of peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs freshens up heavily-flavored rices, stews, and soups.
- This technique of cooking rice will be utilized to any sort of bean or pea, together with varied proteins, like sausages, tinned seafood, and extra.
- Arroz con gandules is usually served in giant portions throughout the vacation season with pernil (gradual roasted pork) and pasteles (meat and root vegetable tamales) however it may be made any time of the 12 months in smaller parts.
- Pegao, also called scorched rice, is commonly coveted when making Puerto Rican rice dishes and is a good way to construct taste and depth in a one-pot meal like this.
Arroz con gandules, rice with pigeon peas, is taken into account the nationwide dish of Puerto Rico. And for good cause. This flavorful rice and pea dish encompasses the shared connections between West African, Spanish, and indigenous Taíno elements and cooking strategies that affect the delicacies of the island. As a chef and recipe developer, I usually discover that sharing my love of Puerto Rican meals with others at all times begins with a quick historic rundown of our meals and tradition with those that will not be acquainted with it.
When the affect of Spanish cooking strategies and meals had been launched to the island throughout colonization, they overlapped with the indigenous Taíno delicacies and the West African dishes of the enslaved populations who had been delivered to the island to work the sugar cane plantations. For instance, indigenous meals, reminiscent of yautia (just like a taro root), yuca, annatto seeds, recao (culantro), and calabaza (West Indian pumpkin) together with West African meals like rice, pigeon peas, plantain, okra, yams, and coconuts are all nonetheless utilized in our delicacies to this very day. Spanish elements like olive oil, citrus, eggplant, meats like pork and beef, and importantly, using sofrito (an herby and fragrant seasoning mix) additionally play a significant function in our dishes.
The extra I realized about Puerto Rican delicacies outdoors of what I used to be taught by my mom and grandmothers, the extra I appreciated our connection to West Africa and throughout the diaspora: most notably, the rice and peas we steadily eat each in Charleston (the place I at the moment reside) and in Puerto Rico, the savory or candy plantain, the spicy pepper sauces, and the fritters: all of them come instantly from West African affect. This specific connection between cultures is essential to understanding our nationwide dish and embracing the flavors which are constructed whereas cooking it.
Constructing and layering taste is necessary to this dish, and the bottom begins out like most savory Puerto Rican meals: with sofrito. This fragrant seasoning base manufactured from peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs lays the muse for the tender rice, which is studded with smoked ham chunks, briny capers, pimentos, and pigeon peas. The seasoned combination that’s created whereas cooking this base and earlier than including the rice is what provides all the taste to the dish itself.
Pigeon peas had been launched to our delicacies by West Africans and these beans (sure, they’re technically beans) are ready in many alternative methods, stewed with plantain dumplings, tossed into a wide range of salads, or simmered in soups, however they really get to shine on this rice dish. Gandules are likely to have a crisp, agency texture and considerably nutty taste, usually troublesome to explain to individuals who haven’t had them earlier than.
Toasting the rice is one other necessary step when it’s time to mix it with the seasoned ham and pigeon peas. Ensuring rice is rinsed and drained is a regular observe in lots of kitchens all over the world to keep away from mushy rice, however toasting it ensures fluffy and particular person grains later. When the rice is sort of finished, it’s topped with a banana leaf to complete steaming and you find yourself rounding out the dish with a refined and barely candy end. It solely takes just a few methods to create a well-balanced one-pot rice meal.
If desirous to make pegao, which is what we name the usually coveted scorched rice on the backside of the pot, let the rice proceed to cook dinner for an additional 15-20 minutes, fastidiously adjusting the warmth as wanted to keep away from burning the rice. It’s simpler to make this utilizing an aluminum dutch oven known as a caldero or heavy-bottomed pot as an alternative of nonstick pots. When serving pegao, it’s historically served on the facet to accompany the rice itself and usually fought over on the dinner desk.
Arroz con gandules has at all times been a favourite recipe I’ve grown up with and I really like making this to introduce individuals to Puerto Rican meals. And the nice half about making this specific rice dish is that when you discover ways to make it, you may make another variation of Puerto Rican rices. Simply adaptable, you’ll be able to omit the smoked ham and substitute bacon (which I usually do) or smoked turkey, or not put any meat in any respect to make it vegan, which is nice for a wide range of friends or dietary restrictions at your dinner desk. As a child, my mother at all times made our dishes with olives however since I’ve an aversion to them, I desire capers for that tiny pop of salty taste wanted within the rice.
This dish is usually served throughout the Puerto Rican vacation season, one of many longest within the Caribbean (beginning earlier than Christmastime and ending on Three Kings’ Day), or on particular events like barbecues, quinceañeras, or weddings, however I really like making smaller batches at house when the craving actually hits. Having the ability to recreate the identical feeling from the vacations on a smaller scale makes this nationwide dish an approachable transfer in my cooking routine.