Yum! We just had a most delicious dinner of arroz con pollo and a nice salad, my son had thirds, which is unheard of, unless he’s eating soft boiled eggs, but that’s a different story. So arroz con pollo (a.k.a. chicken and rice) is a typical Latin American dish common to the Caribbean and the north part of South America. It’s sort of like paella, but not quite and there are probably about 100 different ways to make it. I’d like to say that my recipe was learned from my Cuban grandmother, who learned it from her own grandmother, etc. But, (1) I’m not Cuban and (2) I sort of made it up by tweaking it over the years until it came out right. And the nice thing about it is that it is extremely easy. So what do you do?
Take some chicken parts and brown them in olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot until they are pretty much cooked. Add some salt, pepper, dried oregano, maybe a bay leaf. I like to use boneless thighs, but you can use whole cut-up parts, breasts, whatever. Make sure they are not crowded in the pan such that they are all touching the bottom.
Once the chicken is browned, remove from the pot and set aside. Then saute in the drippings a small chopped onion and a sweet red pepper cut into thin strips until they get soft. Add the chicken parts back and 3 cups of rice, a hefty pinch of saffron, a bit more salt and a couple of shakes of turmeric for color. Some folks like to use those Goya flavor packets, but they’re full of all sorts of stuff like powdered garlic and MSG that just shouldn’t be in your food. Mix everything well until the rice gets coated with oil and pan juices.
Then add enough water or broth to cover everything plus an extra 1/2 – 2/3 of an inch or so. Make sure chicken is evenly distributed. You can also add some sliced chorizo or other sausage at this point. Cover the pot, and turn up the heat until it boils. Once it boils, set the heat to low and make sure you keep the lid on.
After about 15 min check on the rice. If all or most of the liquid has been soaked up, then add another ½ cup or water. If it’s still very soupy, just cover it again. Again let it boil and lower the heat. Check every 5 minutes until the rice is done and the liquid has been absorbed. The rice should be done, but a little moist, but not soupy. If you did it right you should have a nice crispy rice crust in the bottom of the pan.
Dish it up! You can eat it alongside black beans and a nice mojito. I like it with lots of hot sauce, preferably Melinda’s, and a salad consisting of shredded romaine lettuce, thinly sliced tomatoes and onions and oil and vinegar.
And here’s some Celia Cruz for you to listen to, while you cook: