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Pigeon Peas with Rice (Arroz Con Gandules)

Note: you can make this dish without the meat for a vegetarian version

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Total Preparation Time: 1 hour
Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound pork, cut into ½-inch pieces (optional)
1 ounce of pancetta (optional)
1 tablespoon annatto oil (see note below)

Carmen’s Sofrito:
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 leaves of culantro, cut into chiffonade (This is in the cilantro family, so if you cannot find culantro, use cilantro instead)
2 cups medium grain white rice
1 (15 ounce) can pigeon peas, drained
2 tablespoons drained capers
¼ cup roughly chopped pimento stuffed olives
4 ounces tomato sauce
Kosher Salt
1 ripe avocado, diced for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a medium size sauce pan or small dutch over over medium high heat. If making this recipe with meat, brown the pork. Once the pork is browned, transfer it to a bowl. Add the annatto oil to the pan and the pancetta and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, a few minutes. If not using meat, heat the olive and annatto oil in the pan and start at the next step.
Add all of the ingredients for the sofrito, and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until coated. Add just enough water to cover the rice completely. Add the pigeon peas, capers and olives and stir well. Add the tomato sauce and a pinch of salt.
Boil the rice and pea mixture until the standing water has all but disappeared but the mixture is still very wet. Mound the rice and peas up into a mountain, cover tightly, reduce the heat to medium.
Check the rice for doneness in 10 minutes (it should look dry) Return the pork to the pan, reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more.
Transfer the rice to a platter, making sure to scrape up the crispy rice on the bottom. Serve the rice with slices of avocado.

Note: To make annatto oil, combine 1 tablespoon of regular olive oil and 1 tablespoon of annatto seeds in a small saucepan and simmer for a few minutes. Strain and discard the seeds.

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