My family came to the US in the late '70s, and adapted well to the Thanksgiving Holiday; after all, it was another excuse to have a party. And because turkey was eaten for Christmas, I remember Abuela making the same Salvadoran Christmas dinner for Thanksgiving. Thanks to my dad Puertorican food was a must growing up, so it was always a very diverse event. As time went on we learned more about American customs and began incorporating the sweet potato casserole, made by my aunt every year, and the green bean casserole came way later in my life (my absolute favorite).
Now that the holidays are approaching and we have my mother-in-law here for the holidays, I decided to make a Puertorican dinner for the week before Thanksgiving. I made a Pernil and Arroz con Gandules along with a very simple lettuce, tomato, and onion salad. It turned out fabulous.
There is an easy* way of doing every day arroz con gandules, but because this was not an everyday meal I made a sofrito first and took really good care of my rice to keep it nice and fluffy. If I were back in Texas with my family I'd let the rice stick to the bottom and get crisp (pegado or pegao if your Puertorican); if you're Hispanic, this is the most sought after part of the rice.
I love the memories food brings, and my hope is that I am creating new, happy memories for my son. Enjoy this yummy side that could be part of your Thanksgiving dinner.
ARROZ CON GANDULES
1 large roma tomato, rough chop
1/4 yellow onion, rough chop
1 clove garlic
1/4 bell pepper, rough chop
1 tablespoon cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Puree.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup sofrito
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 teaspoon ground chiote or 1 envelope Sazón seasoning (gives the red color)
1 teaspoon salt
1 16 oz. can gandules (pigeon peas), drained and rinsed
3 cups water
In a pan heat oil on medium to medium high. Add sofrito and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and chiote/sazón. Stirring occasionally, let rice toast for 5 minutes.
Add salt, gandules, and water. Stir and let water boil up. Turn heat down so rice is at a simmer. Cover with lid.
After 45 minutes water should be completely absorbed. Stir rice and turn heat down to very low. Let rice cook for 15 more minutes stirring occasionally.
NOTE: If rice is still hard once water is absorbed, add water 2 tablespoons at a time while stirring until rice is tender.
*The easy way is to leave the sofrito out and add Sazón.