The Ultimate Seafood Pelau

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

A traditional Caribbean Pelau is a one-pot rice dish, loaded with rice, pigeon peas, carrots and meat or protein of some sort (chicken, beef, salted pigtails or salted salted beef), simmered in a rich broth of flavored with coconut milk and herbs. While this version is basically the same, since we’re using seafood as the ‘protein’, being mindful of the cooking time is the key to an iconic meal.

Ultimate seafood pelau
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

You’ll Need…

1 lb shrimp (large)
1 lb Cod (fish)
1 lb mussels
1 lb clams
1 lb lobster tail
1 tablespoon butter
2 scallions (chopped)
2 tablespoon Caribbean Green Seasoning (divided)
1 teaspoon black pepper (divided)
4 sprigs thyme
1 1/2 cups diced pumpkin
4-6 cloves garlic
1 large carrot (diced)
1 can pigeon peas (rinsed)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon golden brown sugar
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon salt (adjust)
2 cups long grain par-boil brown rice
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
3-5 bird’s eye pepper
4-7 cups of water (adjust)
3-4 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)

You’ll need lemon or lime juice and cool water to wash the seafood

Ultimate Seafood Pelau

Clean and prep the seafood (watch the video below). With the shrimp and lobster, remove and save the shell as we’ll use those for making a rich stock. Tip! Use scissors to cut and peel back the lobster tails.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

In a saucepan on medium flame, add the butter, scallions, 1/2 the black pepper and thyme. Give it about 30 seconds, then add the washed lobster and shrimp shell. Turn the heat down to low and let it go for about 4-5 minutes. Now add 3 cups cold water and bring to a boil (turn the heat to high). When it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let it reduce by 2/3 (so we’re left with just over 1 cup of stock).

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

As the stock comes together, heat a heavy (large) pot on a high flame. This is the ‘stewing’ part of things. Add the olive oil followed by the brown sugar (watch the video below for mastering this step). The goal here is to melt the sugar, it will then go frothy and finally.. a deep amber in color (DO NOT ALLOW IT TO GO BLACK). When you get that amber color (it will go smokey) add the pigeon peas, pumpkin and carrots. Stir well.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic, onion, bird’s eye pepper (optional – or use your fav spicy pepper) and grated ginger. A minute later add the coconut milk and bring to a boil., then reduce to a simmer.

As this comes up to the boil, chop the lobster into bite-sized pieces and the Cod into 1 inch pieces. Place all the seafood into a large blow, add the remaining black pepper, 1/3 of the salt and 1/2 Caribbean Green Seasoning. Stir well to coat everything.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Back to the main pot. 10 minutes on that simmer, add the washed rice, the remaining salt and the remaining Green Seasoning. Add 2 1/2 cups hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Drain/Strain the stock and add it to the pot. That will add a lovely flavor to the dish, so do try to keep this step.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

After about 7 minutes, tuck the clams and mussels into the pot making sure they’re in the sort of broth. After 3 minutes add the lobster and shrimp and mix (be gentle). Put the lid on and let it cook a further 4 minutes. Add the Cod to the pot and again being gentle, stir.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa
Photo by Chris De La Rosa

3 minutes later, taste and adjust the salt, top with the parsley and hit it a fresh squeeze of lemon juice.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Some key parts of the recipe to keep in mind. Depending on the rice you use, you will need to adjust the cook time and the amount of liquid you add in total. This version of Pelau is meant to be a bit “wet”, but do keep the lid on the pot after you switch off the stove and don’t open/serve for about 5 minutes. Try to NOT overcook the seafood. Typically I don’t like straying from traditional techniques, but adding a bit of white wine (before adding the water) when making the stock, will add a another subtle layer of overall flavor.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

Serve warm and with a side salad, thick slices of Zabouca (avocado, pear) and make sure you have some peppersauce to kick things up further.

Photo by Chris De La Rosa

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