While I’ve been pro #TeamDryPelau most of my known life, the past few years I’ve slowly migrated over to #TeamWetPelau. The wet and dry referring the finished texture of this iconic Caribbean one-pot dish. There is no other dish I enjoy more that Pelau as it’s a meal which brings IMMEDIATE comfort to me. When I watch the big game, when my daughters were born (I celebrated), when I miss the sunny shores of the Caribbean.. even when I was in a state of panic (and uncertainty) when I applied for Citizenship to Canada and I knew my application was weak.. Pelau comforted and calmed me.
4-5 lbs Chicken thighs (skin and fat removed)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 scallion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (smashed)
3/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1 medium tomato (diced)
1 scotch bonnet pepper (chopped – no seeds)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 heaping tablespoon Caribbean Green Seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil (any oil will work)
1 1/2 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1 large carrot (diced)
2- 3 cups water
1 1/2 cup pigeon peas (from a can)
4 cups rice (long grain brown parboiled)
3 cups coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach
1 chicken stock cube (optional)
Important. If doing this dish gluten free, please go through the entire list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs. Be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling Scotch Bonnet peppers. You will see me talk about washing chicken below… while I do it, I will not recommend as I want you to be comfortable when it comes to the way you normally handle/prepare your meats, especially Chicken.
Remove the skin and any fat from the chicken pieces, then wash with cool water and lemon juice (or lime or vinegar), drain and get ready to season. Traditionally meats are washed in the Caribbean, so if you don’t typically wash your meats – so be it. Really up to you.
Season the chicken in a large bowl with the salt, black pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, grated ginger, garlic, scallion, scotch bonnet pepper (remove the seeds if you’re concerned about the raw heat), ketchup, Caribbean green seasoning, onion and tomato. Give this a good mix and set it to marinate overnight or a couple hours in the fridge.
Heat the oil on a high flame in a deep heavy pot, followed by the brown sugar. Stir to move around (this step is most critical), the sugar will melt, go frothy and then deep amber in color. This is when you’d add the seasoned chicken to the pot .. including the marinade. If the sugar goes BLACK.. STOP. Cool the pot, wash and start over. That burnt sugar will cause the dish to go bitter.
Be careful when adding the seasoned chicken as it may splat. Stir well to coat the chicken pieces, turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot and bring to a boil.
It will sprout it’s own juice. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Now remove the lid of the pot and crank up the heat to burn off that liquid. It will take 5 minutes or so and in doing so, we’ll develop a lovely color and flavor.
In the same bowl you marinated the chicken, add 2 cups of water, pigeon peas (rinse with cool water first to remove the brine in was packaged in) and diced carrot. As soon as the liquid in the pot is gone, add this mix and stir. Heat still on high.
Add your washed rice to the pot, stir, then top with the coconut milk and bring back to a boil. Now toss in the spinach and stir well. Turn the heat down to a simmer, place the lid on the pot with a slight space for steam to escape and cook until the rice is tender.
Toss in the chicken stock cube at this point if you wish you can toss another scotch bonnet (WHOLE) on the top and remember to NOT break this pepper or the dish may be too spicy for you. As it cooks if you find that the liquid is drying up too fast, add the additional cup of water we have mentioned in the ingredient list above.
About 23-26 minutes later you’re done. Taste for salt (adjust) and remove the scotch bonnet pepper (save for the people who like it spicy.. they will thank you).
Allow to sit covered for 5 minutes before serving. With the extra liquid, the pelau will take on a creamy texture (almost like a Caribbean risotto) and the flavors of the coconut milk, Caribbean Green Seasoning and Scotch Bonnet will give your tastebuds a work-out. Serve with a side salad with tons of cucumber, coleslaw, slices of Avocado or Watercress. I enjoy my Chicken Pelau best with some Kuchela on the side.
Drop me your comments below, tag me on Instagram and don’t forget you can now get my cookbook – The Vibrant Caribbean Pot, 100 Traditional And Fusion Recipes @ CaribbeanPot.com/CookBook/