When I decided that I would be cooking arroz con gandules, I knew that there were certain ingredients that would be more difficult to acquire than others. Of course it was easy to obtain the rice, olive oil, and ham, but it was not so easy acquiring the other ingredients. The Gandules, or pigeon peas, aren’t always found at a standard supermarket, so I needed to get them at a produce store near my house. But the sazon and sofrito proved to be the most difficult to obtain. Although it is possible to make the sazon and sofrito from scratch, I decided not to do this because of my less than optimal experience with cooking, and instead I decided to buy them elsewhere. After asking relatives who were familiar with the ingredients, I found that I needed to travel to a local produce store in the Mission District of San Francisco in order to get the ingredients. Soon, I got hands on the rest of the ingredients and it was time to start cooking.
Everything started out going well, even with my inexperience with cooking anything. The steps were very clear and the entire recipe relatively simple. After adding the sazon and gandules to the pot of ham and sofrito, it was time to add the rice and the water. The instructions stated that I was to add 2 cups of rice and then 4 cups of water. So I measured and added the rice and got ready to the same with the water. When pouring the water into the bowl, it seemed odd that I was adding such a great amount of water relative to the rice. Even with my inexperience, I felt that something was off. Nevertheless, the mixture was producing a very pleasant aroma consistent with the smell of arroz con gandules, and a brownish orange color that was also consistent with the intended color of the rice. So even with the seemingly high amount of water, I was content and I left the mixture to boil.
After letting 40 minutes pass, I returned to the rice so I could complete the meal. I opened the pot and gazed upon the nearly completed arroz con gandules. Everything looked and smelled great with the rice sporting the brown/orange color and producing a very pleasant and familiar smell. But when I began to stir the rice in order to complete the final step, I noticed that the rice was sticking together a lot which was making it hard to stir, which led me to the conclusion that the over abundance of water had caused my rice to become very mushy. Regardless of this, I completed stirring the rice and put it on a plate along with my mother’s chicken and began eating. Even the the rice was mushy, it tasted reminiscent of the arroz con gandules I had eaten in the past. I was pleased with this outcome and continued to eat my mushy rice. I was content with the fact that the next time I cook this meal, I will be able to avoid the undesired consistency by having more careful measurements.
The next time I cooked the meal, I did everything pretty much the same except for adding 3 cups of water instead of 4. This seemed to do the trick and my rice came out significantly less mushy this time around. While eating the rice I was flooded with the memories of my family and spending the holidays with them, and I know that given the opportunity, I will be happy to cook arroz con gandules in the future and enjoy those memories again.