I had so much fun preparing for this recipe. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen with my godmother and mom, learning their family’s version of this dish. Then I came home and made the dish myself 3 or more times (I think I won’t be making this recipe again until Christmas haha!), taking what I learned from them and meshing their two recipes together. I could not be happier with the end result.
If you plan on making this dish only a couple of times, then you can use a dutch oven (I used a 5 qt. here). As long as the base is wide and flat the rice will cook evenly. If you plan on making this dish more than a couple times a year, then I highly recommend purchasing a caldero (a cast aluminum pan) which is used in more traditional Puerto Rican cooking. The next item that you will need to decide on is whether or not to make homemade or store bought sofrito. I have my own recipe for homemade sofrito, but if you don’t have the time, then store bought will do and I will share the link here to order some.
Now that you’ve decided which route to go with your sofrito, you can start making your dish. Quick recommendation, if you decide to use store bought sofrito, purchase a small green bell pepper and garlic cloves to add some freshness to the dish.
Before you start cooking your dish, rinse your rice in cold water, this will help to remove starch and will help with the texture of the rice while it’s cooking (medium grain rice is best!). Add oil to the pan over medium high heat. Add your bacon, ham, green pepper, garlic and sofrito. Fry the mixture until the bacon is done (browned) and you have a good base of pan drippings.
Next, add all of your seasonings, cilantro and your rice. You will want to toast your rice until just slightly browned, this will help to make the rice a little fluffier. Once the rice is toasted, you can add in all your wet ingredients. Your wet ingredients should include tomato sauce, water and a whole can of pigeon peas or gandules, not drained.
Bring everything to a boil and then place the lid on top and let simmer for 10 minutes. In these ten minutes, it is important that you do not lift the lid for any reason. You need the steam inside to cook the rice.
After 10 minutes, lift the lid and stir really well, especially the bottom, (you will have rice that sticks to the bottom and that is ok) then put the lid back on for another 10 minutes.
If you are hosting a party, feel free to garnish with fresh cilantro.
From my family to yours, enjoy!Print