This is my aunt’s famous recipe for a traditional dish that we often have over the holidays. I make it as a nod to my family and to my mom for making sure she instilled and passed down her culture to me. I hold Puerto Rican cuisine so near and dear to my heart because that’s how I learned how to taste. I make this dish in The Dutchess because it holds heat well, and if you are slow roasting anything, the meat comes out so tender. The sofrito and saźon are what give the dish its oomph and iconic color.
First, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in The Dutchess on medium heat. Add in the chopped onions, garlic, red pepper, green pepper, and olives. Mix everything together so it’s coated with olive oil. Let cook for about 2 minutes, until you can start to smell the veggies, then add in the sofrito paste and the can of gandules. Mix well and let cook for a few minutes.
Stir in the rice and saźon (saźon is where the color comes from — if you often see yellow rice, this is usually how it's made). This next step is important: Once you add the rice and saźon to the veggie mixture, let it “toast” for about two minutes. Toasting is important because it brings out the natural flavors of the rice. At this point, you can add the adobo for seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add 2 cups of water and let that come to a boil — remember to taste the water before it boils so you can see if it needs more seasoning (i.e., salt and pepper). Once boiling, cover The Dutchess and let the dish cook on low heat for about 25 minutes (depending on the brand of rice, this cooking time can vary). Set your timer and try not to open it!
Once the 25 minutes are up, it is steaming hot and ready to be devoured. Cheers to eating!
Photos by Michael Grant.