Rice and Pigeon Peas, a Puerto Rican jewel
Arroz con Gandules is one of those dishes that mark a season. And for Puerto Ricans, that season is the Holidays or any special celebration. Christmas is not Christmas without the holy trinity. No, not the Three Kings, at least not until January. But the trinity of Arroz con Gandules, Pernil, and Coquito. We will discuss all three in the next few weeks. Today, we'll concentrate on the rice.
Table of contents
- Rice and Pigeon Peas, a Puerto Rican jewel
- What is Arroz con Gandules?
- What are the key ingredients for Arroz con Gandules?
- One more ingredient
- What are Pigeon Peas?
- Fun Facts about Pigeon peas
- Dried or rehydrated peas?
- Can Arroz con Gandules be made Vegan or Vegetarian?
- I am making my rice for a pot luck, can I make it in advanced?
- Making Arroz con Gandules
- Cooking Rice Troubleshooting
What is Arroz con Gandules?
I will say, if it were up to me, Arroz con Gandules would be the National Side Dish. Rice with Pigeon peas is available at eateries and restaurants, and homes across Puerto Rico all year round. But, it is a traditional dish for celebrations and during Christmas. This was one of the few dishes I enjoyed eating as a kid. I do not know why. Maybe I thought the pigeon peas were deliciously cute.
Like rice with beans, rice with pigeon peas is the same. Rice cooked with sofrito and peas, adding achiote oil and tomato paste for color. I did not use tomato paste this time, just oil. I like my rice to be grainy and moist.
What are the key ingredients for Arroz con Gandules?
If you have read my previous posts, you should not wonder what I am saying because we put this ingredient in EVERYTHING. Sofrito. If you have not jumped into the sofrito bandwagon, Why are You Waiting? This stuff goes on everything you can think of. Except for desserts, we have our limits, lol. Click here for a basic sofrito recipe.
Sofrito. Sofrito is the key ingredient to almost every single Puerto Rican dish. If you want to cook Puerto Rican food, make sure to keep sofrito in your refrigerator. For my easy-to-make recipe, click here. I will tell you if you haven't read my post on sofrito and want to learn what sofrito is all about quickly. Sofrito is equivalent to the French Mirepoix and the southern Trinity. In essence, it is a flavor base on which to build your dishes.
Ham or Tocino. I keep my rice vegetarian. I do not add ham or tocino to it, but traditionally these two ingredients are major key players. Ham and tocino are vital players in sofrito too. The ham and tocino impart a flavor to the rice we affectionately call; "Se come solo" (sayh comayh solo), or roughly translated to It eats itself. This means the dish is so delicious. It will eat itself. If you were to add ham or tocino, your rice would be infused with pork flavor, allowing you to eat it just the way it is. A technique applied from scarcity when a small amount of meat would be used to add flavor when there wasn't any meat to be had for the main course.
One more ingredient
Rice. I prefer Jasmine rice. It is a good size grain and not too starchy. Plus a nice fragrant flavor. Can you use short-grain rice? Sure, but short-grain rice tends to be starchier and stickier once cooked. Can you use Basmati? Of course! It is long-grain rice and renders a beautifully grainy dish, plus it adds a nutty flavor to your dish. For more information on rice, please check this post, Types of Rice by Webstaurantstore.com.
What are Pigeon Peas?
These tiny peas are so delicious!! I like them because they seem never to be complicated. Weird, but true. As a child, I had a few sensory issues regarding food. Not that anyone would know since I was pretty robust. In a way, I still have these issues. Still, I'm not too fond of the sensation of something crunchy in my mouth when what I am eating is supposed to be soft. For example, uncooked rice, beans that haven't softened enough, seeds in strawberries, tiny chicken bones, or fish bones, to name a few. But for some reason, rice and pigeon peas were always great.
The peas were never the issue. That is one reason why I like pigeon peas: the other reason, tradition. There is no holiday or celebration that rice and pigeon peas are not present. Of course, other side dishes will show up, but Rice and Pigeon peas will always be there. Rice and Pigeon peas are almost like a badge of honor. When planning a gathering, if you are asked to bring your rice, it is like winning an award.
Fun Facts about Pigeon peas
Before the Industrial Revolution, the world lived by the seasons. We (as in the world as a whole) knew that there was a season for specific fruits and vegetables due to seasonal changes. Therefore we had typical dishes for particular seasons. Well, even in tropical Puerto Rico, there was no exception. The gandul or gandules were the beans available to many Puerto Ricans during the winter season. Yes, believe it or not, temperatures would change enough to have the tiny pigeon pea be more prominent during the winter months of November to February. Does this mean that we didn't have the pea available throughout the year? Or the red beans didn't grow during those months? Not really, but we developed rice and pigeon pea combination that reflects "party" whenever served, ARROZ CON GANDULES.
The gandul is a tiny greenish-brown pea. Compared to the red bean, the gandul, or pigeon pea, contains a tremendous nutritional value besides another tasty B vitamin complex capsule and a source for vitamin C, manganese, iron, and phosphorus. In addition, gandules are packed with potassium, protein, folate, and dietary fiber. These great vitamins and minerals help with digestion, growth, bone density, anemia, energy, and immunity. All in a tiny pill-sized pea! Thanks to the industrial revolution, we now have gandules available all year round. But we still make Arroz con gandules for major festivities and celebrations.
How did you like the key ingredient information?
Want to learn more? Download my book specializing in these and many more key ingredients we use in Puerto Rican Cuisine
Dried or rehydrated peas?
I use canned peas most of the time, but there are benefits to using dried peas instead. If you want to control the amount of sodium on your food, consider rehydrating your legumes. The process is not as scary or complicated as many might think, and you have complete control of what is going on with your food.
Many brands that offer dried versions of the legumes have recipes stating how to rehydrate in the packaging. I suggest following those versions. Eventually, you will develop your technique. If you emptied all the beans into a canister and threw away the bag, here is my recipe for how to rehydrate beans.
Can Arroz con Gandules be made Vegan or Vegetarian?
The answer is a resounding YES!!! And it is DELICIOUS, or like someone commented in one of my IG posts, YUMAZING! I always make my Arroz con Gandules as vegan as possible. Although I do not consider myself a vegan, I have vegan friends, and the thought that they could not eat my rice only because I added a pork byproduct makes me sad. Also, I already eat enough meat in my diet. I do not need more added to this dish. My sofrito is also vegan, so I can safely say that the entire dish is vegan. In complete honesty, I do eat this rice, just by itself at times, because it is that good, lol, and I do not miss meat at all.
I am making my rice for a pot luck, can I make it in advanced?
Definitely! This is what this dish was made for, sharing! There are a few options here; 1. Make it in your regular caldero (pot), and once cooked, transfer the rice to an aluminum pan with lid. Chill and reheat before the gathering; 2. Make the rice in the aluminum pan in the oven, chill and reheat before the gathering.
Baking Arroz con Gandules
- I add my onions, garlic, rice, achiote oil, and gandules to the pan and mix. Then pour the boiling liquid into the pan.
- NOTE: place the pan on a cookie sheet for ease of transport to and from the oven.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake uncovered until the water dries out, (this is where we are flying blind, each oven is different and times vary, but it should take about 5 to 10 minutes).
- Then cover the pan with aluminum foil and continue cooking for the remainder time that would total 20 minutes, (so, if it took 5 minutes to dry, then bake for 15 minutes).
- Remove from the oven, and fluff with a fork and serve.
- If serving the next day, let the pan come to room temperature, but fluff with a fork every 10 to 15 minutes to allow the steam to leave, and cool the rice faster.
- Once at room temp, cover and place in the fridge until needed to be reheated for service.
- NOTE: When reheating, whether for your family or friends, make sure the rice comes to a safe temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature assures that any harmful bacteria that could have settled in the rice are killed.
Making Arroz con Gandules
To make this delicious rice you will need:
- Two cups of rice
- One can of pigeon peas or two cups of rehydrated peas
- Two and quarter cups of water or choice of broth for added flavor
- One small onion or half of a large yeloow onion, peeled and diced
- Two tablespoons of sofrito
- Two tablespoons of achiote oil
1. Measure the rice. Using a mesh strainer or colander and a bowl rinse the rice, by soaking the rice and then dumping the rice onto the strainer. Repeat until rice water runs clear. Set aside and let drain. Also, rinse and drain one can of pigeon peas.
2. While rice drains, dice as small as possible one small yellow onion (of half a large onion). Heat your caldero or saucepot to medium heat and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot but not smoking, add the onions and cook until translucent.
3. Add the rice, pigeon peas, and 2 tablespoons of achiote oil. Toss to incorporate the oil into the rice and to toast the grains. Once the rice is thoroughly coated with achiote oil, add two and one-quarter cups of water or broth (vegetable broth works well for this, but some brands are thicker than other, so consider doing half water and half broth).
4. Cook the rice uncovered and without stirring, for about five minutes (rarely do I cook it at this stage past five minutes, but I have done it) on medium to high heat or until the majority of the water has evaporated. Then cover, but do not stir, and lower the heat to the lowest setting and let cook covered for about 15 minutes.
Cooking Rice Troubleshooting
Rice cooks in about 20 minutes total. There is some simple math involved though. If cooking uncovered took 5 minutes, the rice will cook covered for 15 minutes. Adjust your covered time, depending on how long it took to cook uncovered. Check rice for doneness by fluffing rice with a fork. I have used a spoon before, but I do find the big cooking spoon squashes the rice. The tines of the fork are far more delicate and allow to lift the rice without smashing it. If by any chance the rice is not quite done, let it rest covered for a few minutes. If the rice is completely undercooked, add about one-quarter cup of water, cover and set the burner to the lowest setting, and cook for another five to ten minutes.Print