ARROZ CON GANDULES (Puerto Rican style rice and Pigeon Peas) and PERNIL (Puerto Rican style Roast Pork)

It’s that time of year again when friends and family will be coming to visit. That can only mean one thing, it’s time for me to cook the national dish of Puerto Rico. A gathering wouldn’t be complete without the unmistakable aroma of rice and roast pork cooking in the kitchen.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year!


1 large green pepper coarsely chopped and seeded

1 medium onion coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic finely diced

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Place all of the above ingredients into a small food processor and pulse until smooth to make sofrito. Set aside 1/4 cup of the sofrito mixture to prepare the rice. Reserve remaining 2/3 cup of mixture to make pork marinade (mojito).


5-8 pound pork butt (bone in optional)

2/3 cup sofrito mixture

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

1/2 cup orange juice

Place above ingredients into a 2 gallon Ziploc bag. Sealed bag and rub marinade into the pork.

Place bag in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Turn bag and rub in marinade a few times during the 24 hour. Remove the bag from refrigerator 1/2 hour before cooking and allow to sit on counter to reach room temperature. preheat oven to 325° place pork into a large Dutch oven fat side up and pour the excess marinade over the top of the pork.

Cover the Dutch oven with the lid and place in the center of the oven. Cook the pork for 3 1/2 hours. DO NOT REMOVE LID WHILE COOKING. When pork is removed from the oven let it cool 15 minutes before opening lid.

Puerto Rican Style Rice with Pigeon Peas

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup sofrito

One 8 ounce can of tomato sauce

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons of capers

One dozen Manzanilla olives

One can pigeon peas do not drain

2 cups long grain rice

Place oil and sofrito into a large oven proof pot and sauté over medium heat for three minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, capers,olives and pigeon peas to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the rice to the pot and cook uncovered until the water level drops below the level of the rice. remove the pot from the stove and cover the pot and place into a 350° oven for 20 minutes. When done remove pot from the oven and let it rest covered for five minutes. uncover the rice and fluff with a fork.


Habichuelas Colorados con Calabaza Guisado / Red Kidney Beans with Calabaza Squash

HHabichuelas con Calabaza

Habichuelas Colorados con Calabaza Guisado is a  popular Puerto Rican side dish made with red kidney beans and a Caribbean squash called Calabaza. It is a hard skinned squash with orange flesh similar to Acorn or Butternut squash, either of which may be substituted in this recipe. The Calabaza squash, which is easily found in Latin markets, adds a slightly sweet and earthy flavor to the beans. Serve over cooked white rice to create a perfect a side dish for grilled, roasted or fried meats. 


1/2 pound chunk of Calabaza

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped Cubanelle pepper (Italian frying pepper)

3 cloves garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 – 16 ounce cans red kidney beans (or if you have more time on your hands than I do, feel free to soak some dried beans)

1 – 8 ounce can  tomato sauce



Peel, remove seeds and dice the Calabaza into 3/4 inch pieces.

HHabichuelas con Calabaza


Place the diced Calabaza into a sauce pan with enough water to cover the cubes add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and simmer for 10 minutes or until fork tender. Drain the Calabaza reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.


Place onions, green peppers, garlic and olive oil into a small food processor and pulse a few times until a coarse puree is achieved.


Place puree into a large thick bottomed saucepan and sauté for 5 minutes over low heat.


Add remaining ingredients plus the cooked Calabaza  and the reserved 1/2 cup of cooking liquid to the sauce pan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

HHabichuelas con Calabaza

Traditional Puerto Rican “Pernil Horneado” – Roast Pork


Pernil, Puerto Rican Style roast pork is a typically served for the Holidays, with “Tostones” (fried green bananas) and “Arroz con Gandules” (rice and pigeon peas) on the side. The whole trick to a perfect roast is low and slow cooking. Also do not cover the roast while cooking or the skin will not get crispy. Buen provecho.(enjoy)


1 – 8 to 10 pound picnic pork shoulder – (bone in)

3 tbsp. salt or 1 tsp. / pound

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried cilantro

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tbsp. ground cumin

6 cloves garlic peeled

1 large green pepper (coarsely chopped)

1 medium yellow onion (coarsely chopped)

1 lemon or lime (juiced)

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil


Wash pork shoulder under cold running water. Dry with paper towels and place on cutting board skin side up. Using a sharp knife cut through the skin to create a diamond pattern. Place remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor and puree. (This marinade is called Mojo and is also used on steaks, chicken and fish) Place pork into a large Zip-lock plastic bag and pour the marinade from the blender into the bag and seal. The pork shoulder should then be marinated in the refrigerator for 2 days for maximum flavor.  Turn over the bag occasionally to move the marinade around.

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Remove pork from bag and shake off excess marinade and discard. Place the pork shoulder on a rack with the skin side up in a deep sided roasting pan. Wipe marinade off the skin using a paper towel (this keeps the marinade from burning while roasting the pork). Add 1 inch of water to roasting pan to keep pan juices from burning.



Place the uncovered roast in oven and cook for 5 hours (30 minutes/pound) or if using a probe thermometer until roast reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees. To test the pork for doneness I use a fork to pull away a piece of meat, it should shred easily. Now check skin for desired crispness. If skin is still too soft you can get crisper skin by raising temperature up to 400 degrees but watch it closely because it will  burn quickly if not watched. When desired crispness is achieved remove roast from oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.


Irish Soda Bread Revisited

This is an heirloom recipe that my mom makes every year for St. Patrick’s Day. Now this recipe has been handed down to me by my mother and it is my job to make sure this tradition stays alive in my family. This recipe was given to my mother by a neighbor and friend Rosie Redmond over 30 years ago. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I am reposting this recipe in memory of my mom who passed away 9/11/2013, she would always have a few loaves of bread on the kitchen counter to give away to family members come St. Patrick’s Day. That is an “Heirloom Memory”.

4 cups un-sifted All Purpose Flour 

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. Baking Soda

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Salt

1+1/2 cups Buttermilk

2 eggs

1 stick Butter-softened

1 cup Raisins 

1+1/2 Teaspoons Caraway seeds  (optional but I think it adds a great flavor to the bread)

2  – (8) inch round cast iron fry pans or cake pans, greased and floured


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, toss flour mixture with hands (this give bread a light and airy consistency).

Cut in softened butter to flour mixture, using hands or a pastry cutter.  Until evenly distributed.

Add raisins and caraway seeds. Toss with hands to mix thoroughly. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Add buttermilk and blend well.

Pour egg/buttermilk mixture into flour mixture. Blend well with a spoon. The dough should be heavy but not too wet. (If it seems too dry, add a little more buttermilk) If too tacky to handle, add a little bit of flour, so that you can mold it to shape.

Divide batter between 2 prepared pans.

Dust hands generously with flour and mold dough into a round loaves. Dust top generously with flour. Using the wrong end of a fork cut a deep cross “X” into the dough. This is the cross of St. Patrick. This will prevent the bread from cracking, and will give it a traditional look.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until well browned (knife comes clean). Cool on a rack.

Note** By chance, I found out, that when I baked this bread in a cast iron fry pan, the bread rose higher than the one baked in the cake pans.


Sofrito – Puerto Rican Green Gold

sofrito-tray_thumb.jpgSofrito is a mixture of peppers, onions, garlic and herbs that is used as a flavoring in many Puerto Rican rice, bean and meat dishes. I always keep a supply in my freezer. Sofrito recipes are like finger prints no two recipes are the same, this is how my family makes it.

Sofrito Recipe:

2 large green or red pepper – stemmed, seeded and chopped

24 Aji Dulce peppers stemmed, seeded and chopped or 2 Cubanelle peppers stemmed, seeded and chopped*

2 medium onions (large diced)

6 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

4 leaves culantro (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil

 Place all ingredients into a food processor and process for 10 seconds.  Save sofrito by freezing in ice-cube trays or plastic cups then placing them into large zip-lock freezer bag for future use. Sofrito is a great marinade for grilled meats and for seasoning bean dishes. I measure about 1/4 cup in each plastic cup.


*Aji Dulce Peppers are small peppers that resemble a Scotch Bonnet pepper but they are a sweet not hot. Cubanelle peppers are also known as Italian frying peppers.



arroz con pollo 4

If you asked 10 Puerto Ricans “What do you ask your Mother to cook when you go to visit her?” I’ll bet 9 of 10 will say Arroz con Pollo!”  As I cooked this recipe and the aromas filled my kitchen, memories of my mother filled my head. I could see her in the kitchen browning off pieces of chicken while I was trying to steal a few of her olives and she would chase me away with her wooden spoon saying “You are not to big to get a beating.” Then we would both start to laugh. Good memories are what my “Heirloom recipes” are all about.

Arroz con Pollo Recipe:

6 chicken wings

6 chicken thighs

salt and pepper

3 tbsp. olive oil

4 tbsp. sofrito (see recipe below)

6 cups chicken broth

1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce

16 pimento stuffed olives

3 tbsp. capers (rinsed)

4 cups long grain white rice

Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F

Season the chicken parts liberally with salt and pepper.

arroz con pollo 1

Heat oil in a thick bottomed Dutch oven or caldero over medium heat. Brown chicken a few pieces at a time for about 5 minutes a side.(Chef’s note: don’t fuss with the chicken while it is browning, when the chicken is ready to be turned over it will be easy to turn over and will not stick to the bottom of the pan) When chicken is browned remove from pot and set aside.

arroz con pollo 2

Drain pot of rendered chicken fat leaving 1 tbsp. of fat behind in the pot. Leave the browned bits in the bottom of the pot because they will add flavor. Add sofrito to the pot and cook for three minutes.

Add chicken broth, tomato sauce, olives, capers, rice and reserved chicken to the pot and bring liquid to a boil in an uncovered pot over medium heat.

Once boiling reduce heat to low and stir pot only once. If you stir rice too much it becomes sticky!

After about 5 to 10 minutes the rice will absorb most of the liquid in the pot. When the liquid  is just below the top of the rice, cover pot with a tight-fitting lid and place the pot into pre-heated oven for 25 minutes.

Remove pot from oven and allow rice to rest for 5 minutes  before removing lid. To serve fluff rice with a fork.

arroz con pollo 3

Sofrito Recipe:


1 large green or red pepper (large dice)

12 Aji Dulce peppers seeded and chopped or 2 Cubanelle peppers seeded and chopped*

2 medium onions (large dice)

6 cloves garlic (peeled and crushed)

1 jalapeno pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 cup cilantro leaves

2 leaves culantro (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil or light olive oil

 Place all ingredients into a food processor and process for 10 seconds. Reserve 4 tbsp. of mixture for above recipe. Save remaining sofrito by freezing in ice-cube trays then placing cubes into large zip-lock freezer bag for future use. Sofrito is a great marinade for grilled meats and for seasoning bean dishes.


*Aji Dulce Peppers are small peppers that resemble a Scotch Bonnet pepper but they are a sweet not hot. Cubanelle peppers are also known as Italian frying peppers.


Budin – Puerto Rican Bread Pudding


I had a request for a recipe from an old friend of mine (Belinda Alfonso Sandstrom). Back in about 1991 we took a trip to visit her grand father and we brought him a some of my mom’s bread pudding. He took one bite and said it reminded him of the bread pudding he had as a child in Puerto Rico. This is one of my families “Heirloom Recipes”. Try this recipe and it will become a favorite for your family.

3 loaves of “3 day old” French or Italian bread / cut into small cubes
2 cans of Carnation Evaporated milk plus 2 cans of water
1 quart of milk (regular milk, not fat-free)
2 tbsp. Vanilla
3 cups Sugar
1 Tbs.Cinnamon
1/2 cup Raisins
1/4 lb. butter (1 stick) – diced into small pieces
extra cinnamon for dusting

There should be enough bread cubes to make a mound in a 10″ x 15″ baking pan.

Pour the 2 cans of Evaporated Milk over bread, refill each can with water and add to bread. Add milk, vanilla, cinnamon, raisins, sugar and 3/4 of the diced butter.


Mix all together real good, making sure the sugar is well dissolved into the bread mixture.

Let stand for 15 minutes to allow bread to soften and soak up most of the milk. The texture should be a slightly wet mush. Use the remaining butter to dot the top of the entire mixture.

Then lightly sprinkle the top with more cinnamon. DO NOT MIX. Place pan in oven and bake at 350 degrees, for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. or until knife inserted comes out clean. Top will have crispy chunks that you can’t help but to sample! The bread pudding itself will become firm once it cools off.

Hope you enjoy…it’s delicious