When our readers actually read our posts, it feels really good. Because we often write a lot in our post, it is understandable why some may choose not to actually read our words. We understand how many blogs exist, and many only have time to do the “blog drive-by” (you know what I’m talking about – the “I’m going to just look at the pictures quickly then comment something like damn! that-looks-deeelissssh!” drive by? We’ve all done it). But the thing we love the most about writing a blog about food from all over the world, trying to infuse history, cultural anecdotes and as much authenticity as possible, is when we get schooled. It’s almost like a sick, food-centered type of masochism. It’s almost as if we are bent over some Argentinian, Spanish, French or Italians knee as they spank us very hard telling us how wrong we were about _______________ (insert ethnic dish of choice here). Knowing we have people actually reading what we write (and telling us how we can do things better) makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It shows us that people are actually reading our words and are interested in enlightening people about their culture. When we get something wrong on the blog, getting schooled helps us learn and grow and we love it.
One may think that one of the best perks of having a food blog is getting free truffle products (ok, that friggin rocked), free yogurt (didn’t rock as much as the truffle) or free seasoning packets (that basically sucked) but my favorite “freebie” actually came in the form of a scanned in family recipe. A bit ago, we received an email from a reader that asked us when we were going to take a stab at featuring “Arroz con Gandules” on the blog. He read the blog and understood the research we do in regards to authenticity and asked us to please try his “Puerto Rican Lady Friend’s” recipe. It happened to be a dish we had on that lovely “list of things to make for the blog” so, once we received this, we figured to look no further. We tried the recipe (even having to email the reader back to make sure I could understand his handwriting correctly) and didn’t even bother with any more research. It was that good and that easy to make and a perfect weeknight meal. If you want to mix it up a bit, do as our reader Christine does and serve it along with Puerto Rican slow roasted pork shoulder, Pernil, instead of the bits of pork.
Arroz con Gandules is often thought of as Puerto Rico’s national dish. It is the dish that will most often be made for the Christmas dinner table and after one taste, you will see why. What could be better than a one-pot meal with layers and layers of flavor? What could be better than looking around at your kitchen thinking you have opened up a Goya shop (that is if you don’t make your own sofrito, sazon or use canned peas) What could be better than being able to create a delicious crust of crunchy rice and spices goodness that can form at the bottom of the rice called “pegao“?(**We aren’t talented enough yet to get the pegao right, but I’ll be working on it as soon as we pony up and buy a real caldero). So, here’s to Robert – the reader who so graciously supplied this recipe. We may never have met you, but we think of you every month we make Arroz con Gandules!
- 8 (more or less) slices of bacon, chopped OR three chorizo links cut in chunks
- 4 to 5 pork chops, cut in chunks (by butcher or with a heavy cleaver) – about 1 to 1/2 lbs of pork
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 3 to 6 cloves of garlic (we love garlic, so put in as little or as much as you’d like)
- 6 ounces of Goya Sofrito (or your own homemade sofrito – this is our go-to sofrito recipe)
- 5 cups of water
- 1 can gandules (pigeon peas)
- 1 packet of sazón
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch of oregano (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- pinch of cumin (about 1/2 tablespoon)
- pinch of pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup of alcapparado (or just pitted green olives)
- 2 1/2 cups white rice
- olive oil
- a lime
- chopped cilantro
What to do:
- Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (that also includes a nice, tightly fitting lid) on medium. Add the bacon (or chorizo) and fry until well cooked but not super crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a dish.
- Season your pork pieces with some salt and pepper and fry in the remaining oil/rendered bacon fat until the get plenty of color.
- After pork pieces get brown, add the chopped onion and tomato and fry for a minute. After a minute, add the garlic and cook for about 20 to 30 seconds.
- Add the sofrito and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all those delicious bits on the bottom of the pan created by the pork. Allow sofrito to cook for about one minute.
- Add the water, gandules, alcapparado/olives, spices and herbs, sazon packet and salt and pepper, stir and bring to boil.
- When water comes to a boil, add the rice, stir once, cover and turn to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- As Robert’s “Puerto Rican Lady Friends” say, “DO NOT REMOVE THE COVER DURING THE COOKING INTERVALS!”.
- Leave covered on low, simmering, for 30 to 40 minutes or until done. Robert says you can check the rice every 10 minutes (but never removing the cover in between these intervals) but, I find that checking every 10 minutes is kind of unnecessary. I usually check every 15 or so. Either way, this part may take a tiny bit of practice until you really know your stove and how high/low the flame needs to be to perfect your rice.
- After the 30 to 40 minutes, turn off heat and allow to steam for a few more minutes. Remove cover, then fluff rice. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with some chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and maybe a squeeze of lime. Enjoy with a cold Presidente.