A few weeks ago, I awoke in the middle of the night, craving Caribbean pepper pot. Can you imagine what I was dreaming about? Adventures on the high seas? Salsa dancing on the beach? Bright colored head scarves and flowing tunics? Johnny Depp? I wish I could remember. Not to worry, though: I remembered the important part: spicy stew, filled with the goodness of the islands, and I absolutely had to make it. In my dream there was shrimp and rice and callaloo, a typical dark leafy green grown throughout the Caribbean. It's not impossible to find callaloo at specialty supermarkets, but I swapped kale, which was perfect. Most pepper pot recipes call for fiery hot habañero peppers in terrifying quantities. I substituted several milder jalapeños, and there was still plenty of kick. Please do not omit the pepper. If you don't like spicy food, make another dish. After all, this one is called pepper pot for a reason. I made enough for Ted, Christine, Rebecca, Shweta and Robby, who had his portion for breakfast, and when they polished it off, I regretted I hadn't made more. May the recipe bring you amazing food-filled dreams.
Slow cooker Caribbean pepper pot
From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, onion, garlic, fresh ginger root, kosher salt, fresh black pepper, allspice, dried thyme, bay leaves, arborio rice, canned chopped tomato, chicken stock, frozen shrimp, coconut milk.
Adapted from Slow Cooker Comfort Food, this recipe serves 6-8. To halve the recipe, use a 3-quart slow cooker.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with their juice
2 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought)
4 cups cubed butternut squash (cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups chopped kale or callaloo
1 lb uncooked medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut in half if large
2-3 jalapeño peppers*
1 cup coconut milk
Note: I used my 6-quart Ninja slow cooker, and prepared everything right in the cooker. If you have a Ninja or other cooker in which you can sauté, make the entire dish in the slow cooker instead of using a skillet for the first steps.
In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes until just softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, allspice, thyme and bay leaves, and cook for 1 minute. Then add the rice, and toss until everything is combined.
Pour in the tomatoes, with their juice, plus the chicken stock, and bring the mixture to a boil.
Transfer the mixture to a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker.
Stir in the squash and chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours. Lift the lid and stir once or twice during that time.
[*While the stew is cooking, prepare the hot peppers. The original recipe called for 1-2 habañero peppers, which would make this entirely fiery. Instead, I used 3 jalapeños. From 2 of the peppers, I removed the ribs and seeds. I left the ribs and seeds in the third pepper. This made a nicely spicy stew. If you don't love heat, try just one jalapeño with the ribs and seeds removed. Don't omit the pepper entirely, or you won't have a pepper pot!]
After 5 hours, open the cooker and stir in the kale, a bit at a time until it has all settled into the stew. Add the shrimp, jalapeño pepper, and coconut milk. Stir everything together; it will look strangely disconnected at this point, but don't worry.
Turn the cooker to HIGH. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the kale is wilted and the shrimp is pink. Stir well to incorporate everything. Remove and discard the bay leaves.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Shrimp gumbo with andouille sausage, from Simply Recipes
Shrimp pho, from The Lemon Bowl
Kale and butternut squash minestrone, from Yummy Supper
Tropical black bean and collard green soup, from FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Jamaican curry chicken, from That's So Yummy
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