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The Food Goddess is in the Kitchen! I am delighted beyond words to present my friend, my pal, Kali Amanda Browne (daughter of the beauteous and talented Marie) aka The Food Goddess. Enjoy!

Drunken Rice with Crabmeat

Growing up in Puerto Rico meant that rice was a staple food and we had it quite often. My grandmother always made sure that we had variety in our menus so, unlike my next door neighbor, we did not have rice and beans every single night.

Just as well, she made sure that I was exposed to a variety of dishes with the same ingredients so my palate would never be bored. I also believe this is what started me on this path of finding alternatives to every single recipe that I come across.

Sometimes my cousins would drive to one of the coastal towns and find a fisherman walking the streets selling their catch, a few dozen crabs tied up in bunches in a sack over their backs. They'd bring the ocean bounty to our house, where the women would boil the angry crabs, wash and clean them, take them to the back patio to break and roll out the meat, and finally pick over the crabmeat.

Then my grandmother would start the rice and make the most aromatic, velvety and delicious crabmeat rice.

This was one of my favorite rice dishes, but for years I never made it. First, it is labor intensive; and, second, I prefer not to work with live crabs.

Decades after the fact, I am still reeling from the time my cousin Javier came over with two dozen crabs and politely but loudly and drunkenly requested Mami's arroz con jueyes…

In his stupor, while "helping" drop the crabs in the boiling pot, a few escaped and scurried away. We caught most of the escapees, and I – who idolized the rebel in the family – followed Javier as any loyal sidekick would, and watched as he weaved around, precariously balancing a beer on hand and held on to wall with the other, and called out, "Here, crabbie, crabbie. Pssst, crabbie!"

He went to look under one of the guest room's twin beds, he lost his balance, landed rump first on the floor, struggled to his knees, fell on the bed (face first), and fell asleep. As his loyal sidekick, I took my nap as well – mostly because I'd exhausted myself laughing at him. I did take the precaution to pull the sheets up to make sure the runaway crab did not climb up there with me, and tucked and wrapped myself like a mummy so, if it did climb into bed, it'd have no power over my awesome cotton shield.

I assume my disapproving grandfather caught the missing crustacean, but I cannot swear to it.

Thankfully, fresh crabmeat is now sold at supermarkets everywhere.

I have combined two of my favorites for a fabulous rice bowl that may be served on its own or with a small salad for a complete, nutritious and delectable meal.

Fresh crab meat is sold in jars, tinned and in vacuum-sealed bags – already cooked and picked over, but do check for bits of shell and discard. Please note that because crabs are a product of the sea, their meat is already salty and you should curb the use of additional salt in your dishes.

Arroz con Jueyes y Gandules
Rice with Crabmeat and Pigeon Peas

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons oregano
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped olives and pimentos
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of lemon juice
1 8 – 10 ounce can of pigeon peas
6 – 10 ounces of crabmeat (package sizes vary)
2 cups boiling water
1 cup of medium grain rice
1/3 cup white wine (optional)*

In a small bowl, mix crabmeat with lemon juice. Discard liquid from peas and season with paprika.

Heat oil in Dutch oven, sauté onion until it starts to go translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes to season the oil. Add peppers, olives, herbs and seasonings, mix well. Add water, increase heat and boil. Add rice and lower heat to medium low, cover and cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. (At this point, if you wish, you may also add a chopped tomato.)

*Uncover and fold rice, from bottom to top, add liquid if dried out (white wine or a mixture of water and vinegar). You may use something stronger, like sherry for a different depth of flavor. Of course, the alcohol will evaporate and leave behind only the essence of its aroma.

Layer peas over rice, then crabmeat over peas, cover and cook another 10 minutes.

Check for doneness and serve warm.

If you buy a bag of crab legs, you may cook and use as garnish to decorate your plate. You may also add strips of roasted pepper to garnish the plate.

You may serve as a rice bowl and you'd have a nice meal of its own. You may also serve with a leafy salad, an avocado salad, or a carrot and green bean cold salad in a tangy or honey-mustard marinade.

Kali Amanda Browne writes the What's Cooking? column, fiction, two blogs and a Twitter feed of great recipes for Weekend Cooks. Follow her projects at http://amapolapress.weebly.com

(Image source: King Seafood Restaurant, Puerto Rico)


You can email me at kali.templeofdoom@gmail.com.

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