Friday, February 19, 2016
Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules
Puerto Rican Arroz con Gandules is a traditional Puerto Rican dish of rice (arroz) and pigeon peas (gandules). I have a long and storied history with rice. On my first day at
University , I discovered the
cafeteria always had a rice cooker full of rice for lunch and dinner. Back then,
I ate it with butter, or soy sauce, or both. When I did this, the Hawaiian and
Islander kids laughed. They said I was like them. My Aunt Gloria taught my mom
how to cook rice and how inexpensive it was. It became a regular staple in our
diet. My mom would buy fifty pound bags of rice at least every six months. When
we moved to Forest
Grove, Oregon Oregon full time, she
would get looks every time she went to an Asian market. They had never seen a
Caucasian lady buy so much rice.
A friend of Puerto Rican descent gave me a Puerto Rican cookbook, A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz, for my birthday in 2015. They had given me suggestions on what to order when another friend and I went to a local Puerto Rican restaurant. This was at the top of the list. This is the friend who gifted me the cookbook’s favorite dish. This dish was an adventure. The recipe called for recaíto, it is a green base sauce for many Puerto Rican dishes. I found it pre-made in a jar by Goya. It had some preservatives I wanted to avoid and my cookbook included a recaíto recipe. The recaíto calls for cubanelle peppers (also called Italian frying peppers or aji cubanela) and a sweet peeper. I decided banana peppers would b my sweet pepper of choice.
Finding cubanelles and banana peppers in
specifically the Greater Portland metropolitan era, is difficult as can be.
Finding Mexican chile or peppers is fairly easy. I did find online some
substitution options, Anaheim
chiles for cubanelles and pepperoncinis for banana peppers. Due to my mom’s
issues with cilantro, I substituted that with parsley. I decided to buy the
pre-made recaíto. The idea was to make the homemade recaíto with substitutions,
then taste the pre-made and homemade to see which I liked better. The other unusual
ingredients I found fairly easily. One of the local Asian supermarkets had the
cultanro and the Mexican markets had the annatto (achiote in Mexican Spanish).
My mom preferred the fresh homemade and I preferred the pre-made recaíto. I figured I would use half of each. On
January 13, 2016, I made my first batch. I burnt
the bottom of the dish. I misinterpreted the directions. The flavor was good,
but the burnt flavor over powered that. My friend, the one who gifted me the
cookbook, asked how the pegao was. The pegao is the crunchy bottom layer of the
dish. I told them it was black as night. They said, “It was Batman. You do not
want your pegao to be Batman (Dark Knight).”
My second batch was made on
January 18, 2016. Once again I misunderstood the
directions and overcooked the rice to a porridge consistency. I now know what
to do. After making this twice in the same month I needed a break. The pegao
was perfect. My mom loved the pegao. The idea of the pegao comes from Spanish
paella. Most Latino and Hispanic rice dishes come from paella. It is made in a huge
pan and one of the goals is a crispy and crunchy bottom layer of rice.
I will make most assuredly this again. One idea is I may need to grow my own cubanelles and banana peppers. I used to help with my mom’s garden, but that was over three decades ago. I love my rice dishes and this is great.