My son's godmother Janette hails from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, two beautiful tropical islands off of the coast of Venezuela. Like the islands, Janette is beautiful, resourceful and exotic, so much so that she never had to bother to learn to cook.
She loves the food of the islands, however, and reminisces about the wonders of the pelau. It is derived from East Indian, African and Spanish cuisines and presents a wonderful melange of flavors for the palate. It is also gluten-free, feeds a crowd, and could be an exciting alternative to chili for the Super Bowl.
This recipe is adapted from the authoritative "Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago."
Chicken and Winter Squash Pelau
1 12 ounce can black-eyed peas
2 cups long grain rice (jasmine is wonderful!)
3 tablespoon canola oil
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 3-pound chicken, skinned and cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons green seasoning (recipe below)
1⁄2 cup chopped parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 scallions, chopped
2 cups cubed fresh butternut squash or pumpkin
1 tablespoon canned green chilis
1 tablespoon butter
Tomato chutney (Whole Foods or World Market)
Green seasoning (or you can substitute pesto)
Grind the following in a food processor or blender to make a smooth paste:
2 tablespoon water
3 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon cilantro
2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
Rinse peas with cold water, drain and set aside. Rinse the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy, deep pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the sugar, stirring constantly, until it caramelizes to a dark brown. Add the chicken and stir it to evenly coat it with the sugar. Add the onion and garlic; cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in two cups of water, the coconut milk, bay leaf, green seasoning, parsley, thyme, carrots and scallions. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir the rice, squash, peas, green chilis, and butter into the chicken. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through. Remove lid, fluff the rice and serve with a large dollop of tomato chutney.
This recipe serves six, but it's easy to double. I hope you enjoy the pelau as much as I did!
Carson City's Gluten-free Discussion Group meets next Monday, Jan. 9, at 7:30 p.m. Please call 775 291-1070 for more information.
• Susan Hart has been cooking gluten-free for 15 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.