Closed Captioned For The Thinking Impaired

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Puerto Rican Primer for the San Francisco Comical, I mean, Chronicle: Arroz con Pollo y Gandules

Just read a column in the S.F. Chronicle that reaffirms my view of the new-wave liberalism sweeping the coasts of this nation.

Essentially what we have is a group of reactionary people (i.e. people who react before they think) who cloak themselves in the self-congratulatory rhetoric of politically correct jargon and think that by doing so it makes them de facto warm, sensitive, superior human beings.

The arbiters of truth & morality of all they survey. Nevermind the factual correctness or relevance of their statements; you can't let the facts get in the way of the afterglow of a little mental masturbation. It feels too good to stop!

A case in point is John Carroll's column today, April 19, 2007.

John is a man who prides himself (& makes a living) on his broad, unabashedly liberal, humorous point of view. He supports all the right (or I should say, left) issues, is anti-all things Bush, has a gay daughter, is a doting grandfather, cat-lover and all around good guy.

This gives him carte blanche in a city like San Francisco where your credibility rises as your tolerance for so-called "conservative" issues falls. You don't have to prove or qualify anything you say as long as you end every statement with a perceived anti-republican slur.

You are then brilliant, one of the fold; showing your solidarity and obvious intelligence by your mutual disgust & penchant for anti-g.o.p. slogans & bumber stickers (Republicans: The Other White Meat; ha, ha, ha hilarious). It's always so negative but oh so effective.

Take Carroll's column today.

He starts off by discussing the tragedy that occurred Monday at the Virginia Tech campus. He very properly, in my opinion, took the news media to task for exploiting a tragedy for their own mercenary ends. But instead of continuing his commentary on the very real & disturbing trend of news reporting based on a need to fill airtime & endorse ( & probably extort on a hot news day) their sponsors to support their ever growing bottom line, he digresses & starts a rant on the neo-cons of this country taking the opportunity afforded them by an immigrant mass murderer to promote their anti-immigration agenda. He then ends with what he considers an homage to immigrants in the USA & probably felt, he made an excellent contribution to the national dialogue on race relations.

In doing this, he also made the ridiculous gaffe of including a young Puerto Rican male among some of the immigrant victims of that tragedy.

Make no mistake, Juan Ramon Ortiz was from Puerto Rico & he, also, was tragically murdered on campus.

What he was not was an immigrant.
As a native born Puerto Rican, he is also an American citizen.

Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States (just like Washington, D.C.) & has had this status for a century. This makes all Puerto Ricans citizens of this country as soon as they move to the U.S. mainland with the same rights and obligations of all good citizens.

They need not apply for citizenship for this status; it is afforded to them as soon as they step foot in the country. If they choose to remain in Puerto Rico their entire lives, however, there are some important distinctions such as the inability to vote in the national presidential election & relief from paying federal taxes.

Can you see what I mean? Here is John Carroll, humorist & S.F. columnist, acting as an expert on the immigration problem with 7 large paragraphs on the alarming anti-immigrant trend in a 10 paragraph column purportedly about news media abuses & exploitations of tragic stories; showing us his best super-sensitive, hyper-aware, friend of the downtrodden, I'm-such-a- nice-person nature.

Then Mr. Politically-Correct, Morally-Superior shows us he doesn't even know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. What's worse is that he & his ilk will say it doesn't matter, it's the context of the article that matters: those ignorant, xenophobic, bad guy neo-cons must be stopped (whose alleged views, by the way, were not mentioned in any of the myriad of news stories I was subjected to about the Virginia Tech massacre; everyone was more focused on the call to disarm gunowners & increase gun-control which I don't disagree with) .

Ten million Puerto Rican citizens don't matter???

because he's a liberal nice guy it's okay for him to be so ignorant & racist????

Details don't matter, they just get in the way of a good fabricated story!!!
He didn't mean any harm, he's not racist, he just got carried away with his rhetoric.

Isn't that what happened to Don Imus??? No, I forgot Don Imus leans slightly to the right when he walks his lines. So being a republican, Imus must be a racist, right? Right, says all the self righteous arbiters of truth & morality. What a double standard! What a joke!

John Carroll & his readers would have been better served if he had stuck to the subject he is more qualified to pontificate on (he being a person in the news business subject to its vicissitudes): the disturbing trend of the news media to exploit and aggrandize these tragedies, ad nauseum. Saturating the airwaves & printing presses with their "up to the second" "24 hour a day" unconscionable excesses in the name of news coverage. Creating stories where none existed.

He missed a prime opportunity to shed light on a trend that grows increasingly hysterical & ever more powerful and in the process, marring the credibility &, ultimately, the viability of the third estate.

After all, if all the news networks are going to degrade into nothing more than a series of rants & raves, why would people continue to tune in when they can get even more colorful, unedited varieties of information from bloggers & YouTube without the stupid ads or commercial interruptions?

Well for the uninformed like John Carroll who think Puerto Rico is some alien nation, I submit this tasty & simple dish from Borinquen, La Isla del Incanto: Arroz con Pollo y Gandules aka Rice with Chicken & Peas to expand their horizons. This dish is for you, Juan.

Traditionally, pigeon peas (gandules) & sweet (not spicy) scotch bonnet peppers are used in the dish; however, they are not always readily available especially here in San Francisco where seemingly every other latino country's staples are available except amazingly those from the only U.S. latino nation, the land of my grandmother: Puerto Rico. No wonder Johnny boy had no clue! Do I sound bitter?

Arroz con Pollo y Gandules


For the chicken:
2 cloves of garlic
2 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon lime juice
2-1/2 lbs. of chicken pieces (with skin & bone for additional moisture & flavor)

For the rice:
1 ounce pancetta or salt pork, cut into small dice
2 ounces prosciutto or other lean cured ham, cut into small dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded & finely chopped
3 sweet (not spicy) chili peppers or one red pepper, seeded & finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded & chopped
half a handful of cilantro leaves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
10 spanish olives, stuffed with pimientos, cut in half
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/4 cup of tomato puree or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of achiote (annato) oil or 2 tablespoons canola oil mixed with 1 teaspoon of paprika
3 cups of long grain rice
3-1/2 cups of water or low-sodium chicken stock, heated & reserved
1 can of gandules ( pigeon peas), drained or 1 cup of frozen green peas, thawed
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained for garnish


For the chicken:
Place first 7 ingredients in a mortar or food processor & mix into a paste. Cut chicken into equal sized pieces & rub all over with the garlic paste (known as adobo) marinating the chicken in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

In a dutch oven or large braising pan heated over med-high heat, add olive oil & rapidly brown the pork fat & ham. Reduce heat to medium, add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, searing all sides of the chicken.

Reduce heat to low, & add the onion, green pepper, sweet or red pepper, tomato & cilantro (known collectively as the sofrito). Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Increase heat to medium, then add the salt, olives, capers, tomato sauce, achiote or paprika oil and rice. Mix well & cook for two or three minutes, stirring rice mixture occasionally.

Add the reserved heated water or stock to the mixture, mixing well then cook uncovered over medium heat until liquid evaporates and rice is dry.

When rice is dry, turn it over once from top to bottom using a fork.

Lower heat to lowest setting, cover rice with tightly fitting lid or use aluminum foil to create a seal & cook for 20 minutes, turn rice over again with a fork & cook for an additional 20 minutes. (40 minutes in total)

Add peas, folding them into the rice carefully with a fork, and cook for 15 minutes. Then remove pot from heat, allowing rice to stand with lid firmly in place for 5 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat large platter or plates for 1 minute in microwave or 5 minutes in oven. Serve rice on warm platter and garnish with roasted red peppers & sprigs of cilantro. A simple little salad of sliced avocado, tomato, cooked green beans & lettuce with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil & fresh lemon juice makes a nice accompaniment to the dish. Serves 6-8 hungry people. Buen Provecho!

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