a tasty experiment..

Thursday night’s dinner was inspired by Dev, our friend from Trinidad.  He is always talking about the great food in his country.  Shark and bake, for instance sounds AMAZING.

So I did some google searching & came up with a recipe for Pelau.

I expected this dish to taste kind of spicy or something.  However, the recipe I used had no peppers (though I have since discovered that many do).  The recipe is comprised of common ingredients, most that I frequently use. However, for some reason I never imagined putting these things together.

Also, this dish is amazing because all of the flavors come through. I should explain –  Bryan hates stew.  Early in our relationship, I thought I would surprise him with a crock pot kind of stew comprised of pork roast, potatoes & carrots.  That’s a manly meal right? Meat and potatoes and all that. It is tasty stuff. However, in his opinion, stews are terrible because everything tastes the same. The potatoes taste like watered down meat…The meat tastes like watered down meat…You get the drift.

With the pelau, you still have tasty comfort food, but the flavors are complex. Every bite is different.  And the coconut milk doesn’t overpower it but adds even more deliciousness!   This is an easy, one-pot meal that makes a lot of food!  6 servings have been consumed so far…I’m guessing there’s about 4 servings left. =)

I am serious about the comfort food part. Consider all the carbs in this meal – There’s the rice, the carrots & the squash (I substituted acorn squash because I couldn’t find Hubbard squash this time of year).  My version of this recipe ended up not being very authentic though. I don’t know if Dev would approve!  One of distinctive things about pelau is that you burn or kind of caramelize sugar & coat the meat with it.   When I added the meat to the pot, the caramel started seizing  (probably because the meat was cold from just having been thawed out? or perhaps the heat was too high for the sugar? I don’t know). As a result, the sugar didn’t really coat the meat at all. Oh well!  I continued adding other ingredients & eventually the caramel melted back down into the pot. Next time, I will try & figure out how to make the caramelizing process work.

Pelau

adapted slightly from Callaloo, Calypso and Carnival: The Cuisines of Trinidad & Tobago by Dave DeWitt & Mary Jane Wilan

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar (light brown)
  • 1 chicken, cut up (about 2½ to 3 pounds), or substitute goat meat or beef (I used 4-5 thawed chicken breasts)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1½ cup pigeon peas, soaked overnight, or substitute black-eyed peas (canned pigeon peas are available from HEB so I didn’t have to soak them overnight)
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cup Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups cubed fresh Hubbard squash (I substituted with 1 acorn squash)
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bunch scallions or green onion, chopped including the greens
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Method:
Heat the oil in a heavy pot or skillet. With the heat on high, add the sugar and let it caramelize until it is almost burned, stirring constantly. Add the chicken (or meat) and stir until all the pieces are covered with the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Drain the pigeon peas and add them to the pot along with the rice, water, and coconut milk. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, stir until well mixed, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. The 
pelau should be moist at the end of the cooking time.

Note: Other recipes for pelau call for marinating the meat the night before (with salt, pepper, thyme, limes & garlic) & adding a scotch bonnet pepper to the pot. I will have to try these variations next time, especially the pepper.

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