Saturday, January 10, 2009

Puerto Rican Pigeon Pea Stew

COMFORT FOOD!!!! Delicious.

Pigeon peas are sort of a cross between peas and lentils. They are very popular in Latin American cooking, and you can find them in the International Food aisle of your local grocer. Look for the brand Goya. The soup is made of a Latin American base called sofrito, which consists of powerhouse flavors of finely chopped and cooked peppers, tomatoes, garlic and cilantro.

You can buy prepared sofrito in a jar (it isn't bad), but making it from scratch will give your stew a huge, fresh, amazing flavor layers to your soup base. This stew tastes like something a beautiful old Jamaican grandma would prepare for her family.

Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours
Serves 4


2 (15-oz) cans Goya pigeon peas
¼ lb smoked ham, boned ham hock, or Spanish chorizo sausage, diced
3 cups water
2 cups chicken broth

For sofrito:
1 large fresh jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
6 ají dulce chiles*, finely chopped, including seeds
(*ají dulce chiles look like just habaneros but are sweet not hot - very important not to confuse the two! If you can't find these chiles, you can use 1 light green sweet Italian frying pepper instead.)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or oregano leaves

6 oz calabaza or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)
1 garlic clove
4 fresh cilantro sprigs

1 yellow plantain, peeled & sliced on the diagonal
1 Tbs. olive oil


1. Simmer peas, ham, water, and broth in a 4-quart heavy pot, uncovered, 30 minutes.

2. Make sofrito while peas simmer:
Cook jalapeño, bell pepper, ají dulce chiles, onion, and garlic in oil in a skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add cilantro, tomato, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season sofrito with salt and pepper.

3. Simmer and season stew:
Stir sofrito and squash into pea mixture and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and liquid is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Mash garlic clove and cilantro to a paste with a mortar and pestle, then season with salt and pepper and add to stew.

4. In a small skillet, sautee plantain in olive oil on moderate heat for a few minutes on each side until softened and golden brown.

5. To serve, ladle stew into bowls, garnish with a little chopped cilantro over the top and serve with plantains.


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