Today I am sharing my recipe for Chicken Cook-Up Rice made with black-eyed peas. Cook-up Rice is a traditional Guyanese one pot meal. In Guyana traditionally, we make cook-up rice on New Year’s Eve. Guyanese around the world eat cook-up rice at midnight on New Years eve as a way to ring in the new year with prosperity. Imagine rice, peas or beans, some variety of protein or combination of protein, fresh herbs and vegetables cooked over a slow flame in a coconut milk bath.
Traditionally cook-up rice is cooked outdoors over a coal pot or wood stove. This method of cooking added a bit of smokiness to the cook-up rice, a flavor that I long for often. In versions of cook-up rice you may find meat, poultry, smoked fish, and sometimes dried shrimp. Carrots and other root vegetables are often added as well. Most Guyanese make cook-up rice on Saturdays as it is an easy, uncomplicated, comfort food and can go a far way if unexpected visitors show up at your door.
Making Bush Cook-Up in Guyana!
As children growing up in Guyana, my brother and I made many “bush cook-ups.” A bush cook-up is a variety of cook-up rice, that neighborhood children sneak off to make, often when they are left unattended by parents. I remember one such day when my mother went down to the city center to shop and left my brother and I at home with clear instructions not the leave the house. We thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a “bush cook.”
We quickly called our neighborhood friends and instructed them to bring one ingredient each for the cook-up rice. Together with a “little bit of this and a dash of that” and my mom’s best pot we made the most delicious cook-up rice over a wood fueled flame in our back yard. The pot became engulfed with flames and was completely ruined. You don’t even have to ask about the whooping we got when my mom returned home. But to be honest, it was totally worth it.
Soaking versus Not Soaking Peas
Do you soak your peas before cooking? I recently learned that soaking beans and even grains before cooking, helps to break down some of the hard to digest sugars and proteins making it easier on the gut. Since learning this I have become a soaker. before this I was definitely a throw it in the pot with some salt and pressure cook it kind of cook when it came to beans. To learn more about soaking peas and beans and tips on how to soak different kinds of beans, check out this article from spendwithpennies.com
Soaking peas and beans also helps it to cook faster, even if you soak it in boiling water, while you prep your other ingredients it will make a significant difference in the cooking time.
Prepping the chicken for the Chicken Cook-Up Rice
For the best results it is important to marinate your chicken for at least 30 minutes before cooking. When making cook-up rice I either use green seasoning as my marinade or a combination of dry herbs. For this recipe I am using dry herbs that I typical pantry staples and a few other herbs that are essential for cook-up rice. To my chicken I added, garlic powder,
Sauté and Sear the chicken first
The first step in the cooking process is to get a good sear on the chicken. This will prevent the chicken from having a boiled or “fresh” taste as Guyanese people often say. When the chicken is brown all over then you are ready to move on to the next step.
When I first started making chicken cook-up rice, I would cook my onions, garlic and tomatoes first then add the chicken. Then my mom was visiting earlier this year and when making her chicken cook-up rice, (which is amazing, by the way) she seared the chicken first. When I asked why she did it this way, she said the seasoning first made the chicken too wet and it didn’t get the sear she wanted. She actually said, “It doan [don’t] fry up good when you do it that way!” So now I do it her way and what do you know, it is way better than my way!
Two different ways to cook the Black-eyed peas
There are two different ways to cook the black eyed peas for chicken cook-up. The first is to pressure cook it separately with just some water and a pink of salt. The other is to cook it on the stove top. There is third method and that is to pressure cook it with the chicken and all the seasoning, but I don’t like the texture of the chicken when it is pressure cooked. On the stove top cook your peas until it is soft enough that you can smash it with your finger tips but try not to over cook it or it will make your cook-up rice mushy.
Adding the rice and coconut milk to the chicken cook-up rice
When the peas are cooked to my desired tenderness, I add the washed rice to the pot. Do you wash your rice? Rinsing rice not only removes debris and surface starch but it also reduces the level of naturally occurring arsenic in rice by up to 30% (according to the FDA). Read more about why it is important to rinse your rice by clicking here.
After adding the rice to the chicken and black-eyed peas, I mix everything together well and then sauté for a minute to two, stirring often to toast the rice a bit before adding the coconut milk.
Freshly homemade coconut milk is best for cook-up rice. I buy grated frozen coconut, add water, blend it and then strain for easy coconut milk. However, for a long time I couldn’t find fresh or frozen coconut and used canned coconut milk instead. For chicken cook-up rice, I dilute the canned coconut milk before using it. When used without diluting the cook-up rice gets an overly fatty flavor and is too rich with the coconut milk.
Fluffing the Chicken Cook-up Rice
When my mom makes chicken cook-up rice, she stirs the pot constantly for even cooking. I no longer make cook-up rice like this. Now, I cook the rice on a low flame, without stirring it until it is fully cooked. Then I use a fork to fluff the rice and mix everything together. Therefore creating a perfectly cooked and loose cook-up rice. If you like a softer clammy cook-up rice, mix your rice together with the pot spoon instead of the fork.
Save it for Later
The Printable Chicken Cook-Up Rice Recipe
- 11/2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked over night and drained
- 2 cups of jasmine rice, washed and drained
- 2 tablespoon of coconut oil or other oil for cooking
- 3 cups of freshly made coconut milk or
- 1 cup of canned coconut milk diluted with 2 cups of water
- 4 cups of water
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- ¼ cup of fresh Asian Basil, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, grated or 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon of dried thyme (preferably Guyanese fine leaf thyme)
- 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cassareep
- 1 teaspoon of salt or salt to taste
- In a medium bowl, add chicken, garlic or granulated garlic, cassareep, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Then mix together well and let marinate for at least 30 mins.
- Then add coconut oil to a large stock pot on medium heat and bring up to temperature
- When the oil is hot add the marinated chicken and sauté for 10 mins or until it has a great sear and is brown on all sides
- Then add the onions and tomatoes and continue to sauté for about 3 minutes
- Next, add black-eyed peas and 4 cups of water and mix together well. Then increase the heat, cover and cook until the peas are tender enough to be crushed with your finger tips. This should take about 30 minutes
- When the peas reaches the desired tenderness and all the liquids cook down, add the rice. Mix together well, then sauté for about 2 minutes to toast the rice a little before adding the coconut milk
- Next add the coconut milk and the Asian basil, stirring the pot constantly to remove any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pot
- Continue to stir as the coconut milk comes up to a boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest possible heat, cover the pot and let it steam until the rice is completely cooked. This should take about 30 minutes.
- Then remove from the heat and fluff with a fork
- Serve your cook-up rice hot!
If you like a more soft and clammy cook-up rice, instead of fluffing the rice with a fork at the end, mix the rice together with the pot spoon.
Enjoy your cook up rice with all the trimmings.