Friday, July 8, 2011

Free Range Friday - Sorry, Dad

*caveat - my camera is really sick and needs to go to the hospital - I'll be in the states in a few days, so I'm the meantime, sorry about the quality of the photos but it is what it is!
* caveat # 2 - the outdoor photos have nothing to do with this post, but it was a strange and beautiful sunset here so I'm tossing them in. Much better than raw pork chops, even if the camera is being weird

Yesterday I picked up some pork chops at Costa del Sol (I'm drawn to pork chops lately, I don't know why unless it's the rebellious latent Jewishness in me) and wandered around thinking about what to do with them when I saw two (only two) packages of Vigo yellow rice on a shelf. I cannot see this without thinking of my father, who used it to make black beans and yellow rice when I was growing up. A lot. And we never got tired of it either. He'd use ground beef, with sauteed onions and garlic, lots of garlic, the yellow rice and black beans. On top would go a bit of chopped raw onions and a splash of vinegar. It was great and still is. But I thought pork would be interesting to use, so I did.

There should be lots of prep photos with this, but there aren't So here's what I did. It sounds awful (the boiling the meat part, I mean), but it was good. First I parboiled the chops, partly to pre-cook them and partly because I wanted the broth to cook the rice. Out came the chops. While the water came back to a boil, I cut them all up into bite sized pieces, taking off the fat and tossing it. When the water boiled, I put in the rice (no need to add butter or olive oil, the broth had enough fat in it already). Bringing the water to simmer heat, I put the meat in with the cooking rice, put the lid on and in 20 minutes, wa la! The broth and the spices already in the rice permeated the pork, which was now tender and perfect. Yum.'s the point. Vigo rice is full of...well, crap. It was one of those 'I know it's got bad stuff in it DAD made it!' deals. I probably eat it once a year, along with the other few things I eat once a year with bad things in them, but it's time to eliminate it from my emotion driven diet.

Enriched Rice (Niacin, Iron, (Ortho Phosphate), Thiamin, Riboflavin added, Dehidrated Vegetables (Onion, Red & Green Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Cereal Solids, Garlic, Hydrolized Plant Protein Dehydrated Chicken, Sugar, Spices, Artificial Color (Including F.D.& C. Yellow No. 5, F.D.& C. Red No. 3), Saffron, Sodium Sulfite and Sodium Bisulfite As Preservatives.

So here is an alternative that sounds right to me. This recipe uses Bijol, an all natural product that's been around for decades. Gourmet Sleuth says it best - Bijol is also know as "achiote" or "annotto" powder and it is used for coloring rice. It is used to replace the very expensive saffron in many recipes. Bijol does not really duplicate the saffron flavor, but it does have a unique flavor all its own that is unmistakable in Cuban dishes. My father lived in Cuba many years, so that is probably the basis of using Vigo, rather than the time consuming recipe that follows. Hey, he was raising four kids himself, who can blame him? Especially four kids like us!

Cuban Yellow Rice (adapted from 3 Guys From Miami Cook Cuban)

2 cups diced white onion
1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper
1 1/2 cups diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped fine
3 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups uncooked rice
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Bijol powder (if you can afford saffron, go for it, but it won't taste the same)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Salt, pepper to taste
2/3 cup frozen green peas (optional but really a good option!)

Sauté the onion, red pepper, and green pepper in olive oil in a large sauté pan until the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook an additional minute, stirring frequently.

Put the 3 cups of water into a large pot (you'll need a lidded pot). Add the chicken broth, the cooked onions, garlic and green pepper, the rice, tomatoes, Bijol, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is fully cooked and most of the liquid has been absorbed – about 30 to 45 minutes. If you have some sort of cooked protein to add (like cut up pork chops), you can add them now. Lots of recipes say to add at the end, but I like to do it this way.

Don't, repeat DON'T lift the lid up to check on the rice. This isn't Caribbean style rice! Just let it do its thing. Ok???

After 30 minutes go by, you can check the rice. Open the lid and fluff the rice up with a fork. Add the peas to the rice (if you like).

So there you have it. An alternative to my Dad's way of making one of his well-loved standard meals. I think he'd like it.

Buen provecho!


  1. Well that looks and sounds really good!
    Have a great weekend! Here it looks like some sunny weather!

  2. Give it a try, Mark. We're in a rainy spot right now, but it will be a good weekend anyway!