Trinidad Chicken Pelau – An aromatic caramelized chicken pilaf, all the flavors of the Caribbean but quicker and easier.
Its unique flavor comes from sweltering heavily spiced chicken in caramelized sugar then slowing simmering with rice, pumpkin, coconut milk and pigeon peas.
After some cooking time –about 20-25 minutes, you have a glorious pot of perfect rice with veggies, butternut squash and a scrumptious dinner.
I’m telling you it doesn’t get better than this.
Did I grab your attention?
Okay, this version of Trinidad one- pot rice, takes its cue from East Indian pilaf rice and I read somewhere that searing the chicken in sugar dates back to an African traditional way of cooking.
Quite interesting, because most Africans I know feel that sugar does not belong in any thing savory – I think the jury is out on this one folks. Regardless of your stand on this issue, one thing is certain – this Trinidad pelau rice is MEMORABLE.
Here is my take on this Trinidad pelau. I used cut up boneless chicken thighs for this recipe to make it quicker and suitable for a weeknight meal. You may do the same or use any cut of chicken. The chicken can be prepped the night so that the spices can infuse the chicken. – Especially when using larger cuts of chicken.
Replace pigeon peas with carrots or peas, either works well. Butternut squash is not a must – feel free to leave it out. However, it adds a certain sweetness to the rice. Personally, I feel the sugar adds rather than detracts from the recipe – but others do not agree. If you are not a sugar fan use about ¼ cup or omit all together- ½ cup is the perfect medium for me.
- ¼ – ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 small bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Ketchup
- 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
- 3 cups butternut squash large dice
- 15.5 oz. can pigeon beans rinsed and drained
- 13.5 oz. can 1 3/4 cups coconut milk
- 1- teaspoon chicken bouillon optional
- 2 teaspoons creole spice
- 1 teaspoons paprika optional
- 3 ½ cups or more chicken broth or water
- 1 whole scotch bonnet pepper.
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Place chicken in a large bowl or sauce pan then add salt, garlic, ginger, thyme, and white pepper
- Mix chicken with a spoon or with hands until they are well coated, set aside in the fridge. If possible marinate for 30 minutes or overnight.
- When ready to cook shake off any excess spice or from the chicken.
- Wash rice until water runs clear. Drain water. Set aside,
- Place a large Dutch Oven or heavy bottom pan on medium heat, then add sugar, keep stirring until it caramelize and begin to turn deep brown. Be careful not to let it burn.
- Stir in chicken and sauté for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. I usually reserve some chicken to top the rice but it must be fully cooked.
- Then add onions, garlic, thyme, oil, bay leaf and ketchup, sauté for about a minute.
- Stir in rice to the pan, followed by squash and pigeon peas for about 3 minutes. This process helps to infuse the ingredients with all the spice before the next step
- Finally add coconut milk, bouillon powder, creole spice, paprika,scotch bonnet pepper .with 3 ¼ cups of water, bring to a boil reduce heat, and simmer until rice is cooked, about 20 minutes or more. Stir frequently from the sides to prevent burns, add more broth if needed.
- Adjust for salt and pepper. Discard bay leaves .You have to stir occasionally to be preventing any burns.
- Serve warm
Tips & Notes:
- Replace pigeon peas with carrots or peas, either works well.
- Butternut squash is not a must – feel free to leave it out. However, it adds a certain sweetness to the rice .
- If you are not a sugar fan use about ¼ cup or omit all together- ½ cup is the perfect medium for me.
- The chicken can be prepped the night so that the spices can infuse the chicken.