In an attempt to expand my palette and try some new food ingredients, I picked up a 1 pound bag of dried pigeon peas(gandules). With that being said, as soon as I think of gandules, I think of the many, many recipes I have read for the popular Puerto Rican rice dish, Arroz con Gandules. The gandules come in a few varieties and after being cooked have almost the same texture of most beans(legumes) and are mild in flavor. And the first person I think of when it comes to Puerto Rican food is my dear friend Norma Torres. Her blog site, Platanoes, Mangoes and Me has some of the most creative and beautifully plated dishes I have seen. Norma belongs to a creative cooking group. And a few times a year they challenge each other with a special ingredient. The plates that come out of these challenges are amazing and could rival any gourmet restaurant. My challenge, as far as preparing Arroz con Gandules, was finding the ingredient sto prepare the real deal sofrito like Norma’s recipe. The first rice recipe below, although delicious, is loosely based and was pieced together by what I had available. But, the second version is more authentic to the way Norma developed hers. I was excited to find fresh recao leaves which is an important ingredient in her sofrito flavor base. I grilled some lemon pepper chicken and paired it with the arroz con gandules. You can find chicken recipe at the end of the post.
Learning to Prepare Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito~ The First Version
I wish I would have taken a picture of the red sofrito before I added it to the pot. Here it is combined with the tomato sauce as it reduces.
Red Sofrito~The First Version
1 Green bell pepper(all I had was a poblano)
1 Red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
2 roma tomato(Norma told me to never add tomato to sofrito, oops! The second attempt is more accurate.)
1/3 cup cilantro(no culantro where I live, so I added cilantro)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
*Coarsely chop all of the ingredients and place in processor or blender. Pulse to blend until desired finish. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Green Sofrito~ Recao-The Second Version
1 cup fresh recao leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, optional
1 green bell pepper(again I used poblano)
1 yellow sweet pepper
1/2 cup garlic cloves
1 small white onion
2 teaspoons thyme
3 teaspoons oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
*splash of vinegar, optional
Here Is Norma’s Recipe for Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo. Just click onto the picture and it will take you to her blog site.
Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo (My First Version)~
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons annatto powder
1/2 cup dice onion
1 1/2 cups finely diced spanish chorizo
1 recipe for Red Sofrito Sauce (see recipe above)
2 packets Goya culantro with achiote ( cannot find culantro where I live, so I added this sazon)
2 cups long grain rice
2 cups gandules(previously cooked and drained)
3 cups of broth (I reduced the amount to three cups instead of 4 like the original since I blended tomatoes into the sofrito)
salt and pepper to taste
*I did not have any alcaparrado(olives, pimento and capers) to add to the first version of the rice. Norma used 1/2 cup in her original recipe.
Tips~ I cooked a one pound bag of Goya brand gandules. Soak in water overnight. Drain and add fresh water. Add some aromatice, such as smashed garlic cloves, onion, bay leaves. I never season with salt until they become tender. I cooked them mostly covered at a steady simmer for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Once tender, I added salt and pepper to taste and cooked for another ten minutes.
Directions~ First Version of Arroz con Gandules
- 1. Heat oil in large caldero style pot to medium heat. Add the annatto powder, onions and Spanish chorizo. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.2. Add the red sofrito and Sazon packets to the pan. Stir well to combine and taste for saltand pepper. Let sauce cook out for a good 15 minutes or until it reduces and thickens slightly.3. Add the broth or water, rice and gandules. Gently stir to combine. Bring to a boil and taste for salt. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Cover rice with foil paper, cover with lid and place back on heat at lowest setting. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, checking to make sure that bottom of rice does not burn. You want golden, crispy and brown, not black, lol! Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yields 10 to 12 servings.
Tips~ Even with all of the adjustments I made on this version, I was very happy with the results. My friends at the community lunch loved it and I would make it again for sure.
And for the second attempt at Norma’s Arroz con Gandules, I was a little more prepared with recao leaves in hand!
Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo(My second version)~ A little closer to Norma’s original recipe
2 tablespoons achiote/annatto oil
1 cup thinly sliced Spanish-style chorizo
1/3 cup onion, diced
salt and pepper
1/4 full cup green sofrito(see recipe)
1/3 cup alcaparrado(see recipe)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 envelope Goya Sazon
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup gandules(already cooked).I did not see the green gandules or else I would have picked those up.
Tips~ To prepare a quick achiote/annatto oil, I added 1 teaspoon of achiote seeds to a small glass bowl. Cover with 1/4 cup olive oil and heat in the microwave for 40 seconds to 1 minutes. Strain out the seeds. As I have stated many, many times, It’s good to measure out all of your ingredients when trying a new recipe. Less room for mistakes.
Tips~ For the Alcaparrado, 6 queen size olives with pimento, 1 tablespoon capers and 1 tablespoon red pimento. Chop up fine and combine. I purchased the ingredients separate, but it also comes mixed already in the Goya brand.
1. In a skillet, heat achoite oil to medium heat. Add the onions and chorizo. The onions are not in the original recipe, but I like sauteed onions in my rice, so I added them. Season lightly with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute for 3 minutes.
2. Add the sofrito, alcaparrado and tomato sauce. Stir well to combine and cook for a good 5 to 7 minutes to cook out some of those raw flavors.
3. Add rice, gandules and 2 cups of broth. Gently stir to combine. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a low simmer. Taste for salt and pepper, cover and continue
cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Depending on you pan, this could take 14 to 18 minutes.
4. At this point, I fluffed out the rice and covered it with foil paper. Put the lid back on and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes.The pan you use will vary, so you want to check the rice on the bottom so it does not burn. You are looking for a nice crusty brown color. Once you see this, remove from heat and let rice stand for 10 minutes.
Tips~ You can see the brown crusty bits of the bottom layer of rice. But know that all pots and pans cook differently. In this same pan, the middle burns faster and therefor was alot darker in that spot. I moved it during the last segment of cooking so it would not burn too much.
Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken
For The Brine(requires overnight brining)
water, about 4 cups
salt to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon peppercorns, smashed
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
splash of white vinegar
You Will Also Need
3 large boneless chicken breast (sliced open to make 6 pieces)
Zest of 2 lemons and lemons
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsely or oregano for garnish
1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and heat to medium. Cook just until the salt dissolves and the water begins to form bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Cover chicken and chill for 24 to 48 hours.
2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the brine and remove excess moisture using some paper towels. Season chicken with fresh cracked pepper and the zest of 2 lemons. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside. Slice the lemons into thick slices. I had some leftover Spanish chorizo from the rice recipe so I cooked it on the grill for just a few minutes per side.
3. Preheat grill to medium/high heat. When ready, brush grates with oil. Place chicken onto grill, zest side down. Season the other side of chicken lightly with more pepper and brush with a little oil. Close lid on grill and cook for about 8 or 9 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove from grill and cover with foil paper. Grill lemon slices for a few minutes per side. Serve with your favorite sides and garnish with grilled lemon slices. Yields 6 servings.