Saturday, September 09, 2006

Arroz con gandules

I haven’t made this yet, so the recipe may change. But I saw Daisy make it, and had to put it here for safekeeping. Looks gorgeous.

First, you have to make the Sofrito.

If you can't find ajices dulces or culantro, don't sweat. Up the amount of cilantro to 1 ½ bunches.

  • 2 medium Spanish onions, cut into large chunks
  • 3 to 4 Italian frying peppers or cubanelle peppers
  • 16 to 20 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, washed
  • 7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
  • 4 leaves of culantro (see note below), or another handful cilantro
  • 3 to 4 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
Chop the onion and cubanelle or Italian peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It also freezes beautifully. Freeze sofrito in ½ cup batches in sealable plastic bags. They come in extremely handy in a pinch. You can even add sofrito straight from the freezer to the pan in any recipe that calls for it.
Pantry Notes: Ajices Dulces, also known as cachucha or ajicitos are tiny sweet peppers with a hint of heat. They range in color from light to medium green and yellow to red and orange. They add freshness and an herby note to the sofrito and anything you cook. Do not mistake them for Scotch bonnet or Habanero chilies (which they look like)--those two pack a wallop when it comes to heat. If you can find ajicitos in your market, add them to sofrito. If not, up the cilantro and add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Culantro is not cilantro. It has long leaves with tapered tips and serrated edges. When it comes to flavor, culantro is like cilantro times ten. It is a nice, not essential addition to sofrito.

Makes about 4 cups.

Arroz con Gandules
Makes 10 to 15 servings, as part of a larger meal

1/2 cup Achiote Oil
1 cup Sofrito
3 tablespoons alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
3 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-1/2 pounds smoked pork neck bones or smoked turkey wings or one smoked ham hock
One 13-ounce bag frozen pigeon peas OR one 15-ounce can pigeon peas, drained
6 cups long grain rice
Beef Broth, homemade or store-bought and/or water as needed (about 8 cups)
1 banana leaf*

*Note: Banana leaves and/or plantain leaves, are large, pliable, dark green leaves that are used quite a bit in Latin American cooking. Here they lend the rice a subtle flavor. They are available, usually frozen in 1-pound packages, in Latin markets and some specialty stores. And if you life in California, you can probably find a banana tree locally, from which you can harvest a young leaf.

Heat the achiote oil in a heavy 5-quart pot or Dutch oven over high heat until rippling. Stir in the sofrito, alcaparrada or olives, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook until the sofrito stops boiling and starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes.

Add the pork bones and stir until they're coated with oil, then stir in the rice until everything is mixed together and the rice is coated with oil.

Stir in the pigeon peas and enough broth and/or water to cover the rice by the width of two fingers. Top with the banana leaf, folding it up as necessary to fit over the rice. Bring to a boil and boil without stirring until the level of liquid meets the rice. Take the banana leaf off, give the rice a big, healthy stir and put the leaf back on top. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove the banana leaf, give the rice a big stir and fluff it with a fork. Serve hot.

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