(Sorta) Free Bird

BY DEBBIE MATTHEWS, The Curious Cook
Posted 12/12/19

In case anybody ever wondered, The Kid is absolutely my child.Before purple hair, multiple ear piercings, and nerdy glasses (The Kid’s) and drooping skin, wrinkles, and gray roots (mine), we …

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(Sorta) Free Bird

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Posted

In case anybody ever wondered, The Kid is absolutely my child.

Before purple hair, multiple ear piercings, and nerdy glasses (The Kid’s) and drooping skin, wrinkles, and gray roots (mine), we were mirror images of one another.

But the big thing was, and still is, our shared love of a good deal. The deeper the discount, the better we love it. The very first word the toddler kid ever learned to read was “Sale.” We will regularly call each other and announce, “I won. I got a $50 hairdryer for $2.50…or a leather coat for $20…or a $23,000 dollar late-model used car for $17,500.”

The other day I won. I made a really delicious, unctuous, chicken, rice, and bean dish with Caribbean flavors. All for around 50 cents a serving — really.

When I was 9, my family moved to Puerto Rico. And there, I discovered a few things.

Living within a few hundred yards of the beach is pretty darn sweet. It’s never a bad idea to be able to speak a second language. And Puerto Rican food is just about the best-tasting, best-smelling food on the planet.

A lot of folks think that all Latin food is spicy hot.

Much of it is, but not all. Puerto Rican and Cuban cuisine is zesty and flavorful rather than burn-y and malicious.

It’s full of garlic, citrus mainly in the form of bitter orange, and herbaceous, with culantro (not cilantro but related), thyme, oregano, and annatto. It’s a balance of textures with an abundance of rice. Although I’ve had a few island cooking lessons, I’m not an expert, but I often create dishes that are a riff on Puerto Rican food.

Like the other day.

My local Carlie C’s has a free item each weekend for loyal shoppers and my local Coop has a member’s deal each month. From Carlie C’s, I had a bag of Mahatma yellow rice, and the Coop’s giveaway was a can of plain navy beans.

I also had a bag of rotisserie chicken in the freezer and a can of coconut cream from Trader Joe’s.

I went into the kitchen and got creative. It turned out so good, Petey had seconds and called dibs on any leftovers that remained after The Kid liberated a goodly portion.

Ok, so the dish wasn’t actually free, but c’mon, Free Bird? For a super cheap chicken dish, how totally witty is that title?

Thanks for your time.

(Contact Debbie at dm@bullcity.mom)

Sorta Free, Sorta Puerto Rican Rice & Beans

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 yellow onion chopped
2 envelopes Goya Sazon with cilantro and achiote (annatto)
¾ teaspoon dry thyme
1- 5 oz bag Mahatma yellow rice
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1-15 oz can navy beans, drained
1-13.5 oz can coconut cream (not cream of coconut or coconut milk)
1 ¼ cup water
2-3 cups bite-sized cooked chicken
½ cup green olives with pimento, sliced in half
½ lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large, heavy pot with close-fitting lid, heat olive oil on medium. Add onion, sazon, thyme, a big pinch of salt & pepper, and cook until translucent.
Pour in the bag of rice, and stir until it coated and it begins to smell a little nutty. Add garlic, and when you can smell it, add beans, coconut cream, water, chicken, and olives. When the liquid comes to a boil, cover and lower heat to medium-low.
Cook for 15-20 minutes until liquids cooked out and rice is fully cooked. take off heat and leaving rice covered, let it rest for 15 minutes.
Before serving, add juice from ½ lemon, check for seasoning, and reseason, if necessary.
Serves 4-6.

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