You keep me rocking, all of the time!!  Okay, okay red, red wine is better than rice.  But I don’t have a recipe for wine, so rice will have to do!

ANYWAY.

Who would have thought that I would be sitting here today writing my first guest blog post?  For that matter, writing my first blog post?  But when Hilary asks Facebook for help, you don’t just scroll on by!

I met Hilary around 1990-1991 at Noble Elementary School.  Don’t ask me what grade that was, I know you are just trying to be sneaky and find out how old we are!  We are old enough to appreciate slap bracelets and . Throughout the years, we have been best friends, mortal enemies (middle school, you know how it goes), acquaintances…we have laughed and cried and sang.  And we have ate.  Eaten?  We eat.

One thing my family eats all the time is rice.  I don’t speak Spanish, so when people ask me what I am cooking, I generally say Puerto Rican rice, or sometimes red rice.  Though people tend to associate “red rice” with a specific rice they’ve eaten, and I want them to know that my rice is not the red rice they’ve enjoyed in the past.  Mine is special.  ¡It’s Boricuan!

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In actuality, it is Arroz Con Gandules (or Con Pollo, or Con Italian Sausage, or Con whatever you have in the freezer).  I would call it by the correct term, but all that happens is a discussion of my terrible accent, and everyone forgets about the meal.  I am Not Puerto Rican, but my husband is.  His mother and sister taught me how to make this rice, which Victor is forever grateful for.  When they showed me, it was all done verbally and manually, I have no written directions.  I am positive that throughout the years, I have forgotten steps, and that this rice is not the same as the rice his mama makes.  It is still delicious, and a perfect side to almost any meal.

This is going to be more of a guideline than a recipe.  I do not have exact measurements, and it sometimes takes a little trial and error for people to get a great batch.  I have yet to had a batch my husband wouldn’t eat, so even if it’s not great, it’s still good- and you’ll know what to tweak next time!

Things you will need:

Olive oil

Sofrito (This is best homemade- blend a couple tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, garlic, and onion together.  It’s great in eggs as well!   It can also be found in the frozen food section at some grocery stores, as well as in the Hispanic foods aisle.  Don’t use the glass jar in the food aisle, it’s flavorless.  I used the frozen one tonight, and it’s my first time using that one.  It works just fine)

Sazon (seasoning packets, found in Hispanic food aisles)

Sriracha or other hot sauce if you’d like to add a little more spice

Rice (I use long grain)

Water

Anything you want to add.  I’ve used combinations of

Italian sausage (I’ll be using this tonight), chicken, steak, gandules (pigeon peas), pinto beans, green olives, chorizo, etc.

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Victor (my husband) is always in awe because the rice is generally done in 30-45 minutes.  He remembers his mother having the rice cooking all day long.  This could be a hint to some large step I’ve removed.  Or, it could be because I am usually cooking it for 2 people, while his mother was usually cooking it for 7 people.  More than likely, Victor just thought it took his mother that long because he was hungry and impatient.  I couldn’t tell you.  I would suggest not having an important timeline the first time making this, just in case.

First step is to pour a little bit of olive oil in the pot.  Listen.  What I have always been told is “The more oil, the more pegua”, which is the crispy rice you’ll get at the bottom.  I was told by Victor’s Grandma Nancy that only real Puerto Ricans like the Pegua, so I guess I AM actually the Puerto Rican in this household, and my husband is actually Not.  Since he doesn’t like it as much, I never cover the bottom of the pot completely, just a quick glug or so. However!  Tonight I used more oil than normal, and I ended up with ZERO pegua!  I am now questioning everything, mostly my listening/hearing skills.  Use however much oil you want, and let me know if you get pegua or not!

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Add in the sofrito.  If I’m going to be using 2 cups of uncooked rice, I use two large cooking spoons of sofrito.

Next, a packet of Sazon.  I use another packet for every 2 cups of rice.

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If you want to make it a little spicy, squirt in some sriracha here.  Mix it all together, and put the heat on High.

Once the mixture is boiling, pour in the uncooked rice, and stir it in to cover it in the mixture.  I let it sit like that for a minute or so, but I don’t know if that is necessary.  It just makes me feel fancy.

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Next, we add the water in.  This is the toughest part, since it can depend on what grain rice you are using, as well as the sofrito. I generally fill up the measuring cup with 4 cups of water (for the two cups uncooked rice), and pour in 3 cups, and then pour in some more little by little.  The rule of thumb is about an inch of water covering the rice.  I mean, I could probably figure out an actual amount, and have a recipe with measurements, and it’s perfect every time…but that’s a lot of work it’s much more fun this way!  Kind of like Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any other day you may open up a wrapped present and you don’t know what you’re going to get but you know it’s from someone that loves you, so it must be good!

SO, put in however much water you feel comfortable using. For this batch, I used about 3.5 cups.  If you are using medium grain rice, it may be closer to 3 cups.  Don’t quote me, I’m kind of making that up.  Boil until almost all of the water is dissolved.  Don’t stir too much!  I just stir once or twice when I first add the water, then a couple times once it looks like most of the water is gone.

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Don’t let all the water evaporate!  When there is just a little left, add in your extras.  Sausage, in this case.  Do a quick stir, then cover up the pot and put the heat on low or medium low.

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I let the rice sit until I’m ready to eat, but I think it takes about 20 minutes from when the cover is on.  Just taste it until it gets to the softness that you want.  It’s a perfect side for anything, and if you cook like I do, you’ll usually have enough for leftovers too.  Not because it’s bad, but because I make too much.  I swear.  Tonight we are having it with baked steak and butternut squash quesadillas, with a couple glasses of red wine in honor of Mrs. Matthews!

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