Arroz con Gandules Recipe

Why This Recipe Works

  • Sofrito is the true spine 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 may be utilized to any type of bean or pea, together with numerous proteins, like sausages, tinned seafood, and extra.
  • Arroz con gandules is usually served in massive portions in the course of the vacation season with pernil (sluggish roasted pork) and pasteles (meat and root vegetable tamales) however it may be made any time of the 12 months in smaller parts.
  • Pegao, often known as 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 purpose. This flavorful rice and pea dish encompasses the shared connections between West African, Spanish, and indigenous Taíno substances and cooking strategies that affect the delicacies of the island. As a chef and recipe developer, I typically 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 might not be aware of 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 (much 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 substances like olive oil, citrus, eggplant, meats like pork and beef, and importantly, the usage of sofrito (an herby and fragrant seasoning mix) additionally play a serious function in our dishes.

Severe Eats / Vicky Wasik

The extra I discovered about Puerto Rican delicacies exterior 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 dwell) and in Puerto Rico, the savory or candy plantain, the spicy pepper sauces, and the fritters: all of them come immediately 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 vital to this dish, and the bottom begins out like most savory Puerto Rican meals: with sofrito. This fragrant seasoning base fabricated from peppers, onions, garlic, and herbs lays the inspiration 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 the entire 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 various 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 inclined to have a crisp, agency texture and considerably nutty taste, typically troublesome to explain to individuals who haven’t had them earlier than.

Severe Eats / Vicky Wasik

Toasting the rice is one other vital step when it’s time to mix it with the seasoned ham and pigeon peas. Ensuring rice is rinsed and drained is a typical 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 performed, it’s topped with a banana leaf to complete steaming and you find yourself rounding out the dish with a delicate and barely candy end. It solely takes just a few tips to create a well-balanced one-pot rice meal.

If eager to make pegao, which is what we name the customarily coveted scorched rice on the backside of the pot, let the rice proceed to prepare 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 a substitute 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.

Severe Eats / Vicky Wasik

Arroz con gandules has at all times been a favourite recipe I’ve grown up with and I really like making this to introduce folks to Puerto Rican meals. And the good half about making this specific rice dish is that after you discover ways to make it, you may make some other variation of Puerto Rican rices. Simply adaptable, you’ll be able to omit the smoked ham and substitute bacon (which I typically 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 want capers for that tiny pop of salty taste wanted within the rice.

This dish is usually served in the course of 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 dwelling 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.

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