My grandparents on my mother’s side came to the US from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico in the 1950s. After living in New York for 25 years, they relocated to California and eventually Las Vegas, where all 7 of their children followed. My mother was the youngest; my grandmother came to live with us after I was born and my grandfather passed away. Some of my most treasured memories growing up are spending time with her in the kitchen while she cooked dinners. Her most used items were her caldero and pilón (mortar and pestle) – they have become family relics since she passed that I hope to inherit someday. I recently had one of my cousins visit and we always have dinner at La Isla, an authentic Borinquen restaurant in Ballard; we ordered Pollo Guisado, a traditional dish of stewed chicken with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas). It’s a strange thing, when flavors can feel like “home” – the sofrito, the olives, the small potatoes…this single meal brings me back to the kitchen with my grandmother, tugging on her dress while she stirred her caldero, wanting her to hug me as she cooked. This particular evening with my cousin, we laughed and cried as we spoke of the past, our grandmother’s legacy deeply woven within the essence of this simple dish.
2 cups uncooked rice
1 lb chicken parts
1 small can tomato sauce
2 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons of sliced Spanish Olives, with red peppers
1 teaspoon alcaparras
2 bay leaves
1 ounce green bell pepper
½ cup sofrito (recipe below)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
4 cups of boiling water
In a large caldero brown the chicken parts in the oil, 5 minutes each side.
Remove chicken from the pot and set aside. Don’t put them on paper towels – we want any grease back in the pot.
Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/4″ size pieces. Set aside
Dice the green bell pepper into 1/8″ pieces. Set aside
Leave the chicken drippings inside the pot and add all the other ingredients except for the rice, water and chicken.
Mix well and cook sofrito for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Add the chicken and rice to the pot and stir.
Add the boiling water until the water is about 1 inch above the rice, stir once only.
Boil uncovered, over high heat, until water is absorbed.
Once the water is absorbed gently stir from bottom to top. Just a couple of turns only.
Cover and continue to cook over LOW heat for another 30 minutes or until the rice is tender.
1 large yellow onion
1 pimiento (Cubanelle) or substitute with green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper or 1sm jar roasted red peppers
1 medium head of garlic (2 tbsp. minced garlic)
1 bunch of cilantro
12 ajíes dulces (hard to find and may skip)
6 leaves of recao – (Eryngium) (hard to find/skip)
¼ cup Spanish olives, pitted
1 tbsp capers
2 tsps salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp crushed orégano
½ cup olive oil
Wash, peel, seed and coarsley chop everything. Put in a blender and pureé. Store in a glass jar covered in the refrigerator for later use.