Friday, October 17, 2014

Free Range Friday ~ Pelau

The first time I tasted Trinidadian pilau (or pelau), it was made by a Trinidadian. In Orlando. At a marina. Like most things that happened at that marina, I expected the unusual and the very good and I wasn't disappointed.

I'm thinking about pilau because a recipe for it showed up in my email the other day. The photo looked beautiful but not quite right and then I read the recipe. It was very Americanized and therein was the 'not quite right' ness. So I looked up the recipe on a site that is so Trini you can almost smell the charcoal and hear the steel pans.

Right now it's been too hot for me to cook much of anything, but as soon as it cools off, I'm making this again.

photo credit - Simply Trini
This recipe is a little time consuming and well worth every minute of that time. If you can eat it outside, cooked on a huge grill, by a really big lake with a lot of crazy fun sailors, it's even better.

PELAU - modified from Simply Trini 
1½ to 2 lb chicken
1 onion
2 tbsp sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig chive
1 tbsp tomato paste 
2 cups chicken broth *
1 cup coconut milk
1 can pigeon peas (or 1 cup fresh pigeon peas)
1 (or more - I like this hot) thinly sliced hot pepper - take care with this - I know a lot of people say wear gloves but most of us won't. Just make sure you really wash your hands well after cutting this up! Pepper juice in your eyes or other more intimate places can really wreck a cooking experience. I know this from experience.
1½ cups rice
1 cup chopped pumpkin (Caribbean pumpkin)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup whole corn (steamed or grilled corn on the cob goes great with this dish - you can cook some up early and use one of the ears of corn to go in the pot)
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
salt to taste

Clean the chicken and cut into small pieces.  In a bowl big enough for the chicken, stir together the juice of one lime, 1 tsp. salt,  4 cloves minced garlic, 1 minced onion, 1 chopped red pepper, a small handful of chives, 2 big leaves of thyme (the wild oregano I talked about last week), charon beni/shadow benny/racao/Puerto Rican cilantro and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Marinate at least a couple of hours, overnight is even better.

Over a medium flame, caramelize the sugar - this just means spread it over the bottom of the pan and cook gently until it liquifies and turns a coppery brown. Do NOT walk away, this doesn't take long. Add the chicken. Allow to coat evenly with the sugar and let it cook in its own juices for about 3 minutes.

Add the water/broth water and the 2 tablespoon of oil.  Add the pigeon peas, pumpkin, and stir. Allow to simmer for about 4 minutes. Add 1 cup of coconut milk and the rice. Stir to mix the ingredients.

Add the butter and tomato paste and stir in. Put a tight lid on and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked. 

*If you don't want to buy chicken broth, take the back and wings from your chicken and boil them for 20 minutes or so. You've got your broth and your cat has a treat.

Thanks, Joe and Linda Barrett, for all the very good times this dish brings to mind, and Joe's excellent cook of an ex-wife who's name I forget but her pelau will live in my taste bud memory forever. I hope this comes even slightly close!

Joe and Linda - still crazy after all these years ~ photo credit: unknown
Have a feel the fondness Friday. Do something fresh.

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