Arroz con Pollo is one of the most traditional and beloved of all Cuban recipes. It is usually served for Sunday lunch, family gatherings and festive events. Contrary to what you might think, it is not a hard dish to make and that is perhaps one of its major appeals.
I confess that I was a bit scared to try it myself as, for years, it had been the domain of one of my aunts. Whenever one of us wanted to have it, all we had to do was ring her up. No way would any of us step up to the plate. A couple of months ago my nephew came up for a visit and begged me to make his favorite dish. Maybe it was the vodka, or the fact that it had been a long time since I had it, but it was time for one of us to man up and meet the challenge. So the next day, with my aunt on the line every step of the way, I finally conquered the fear and can now say that the "torch has been passed to a new generation." Phewey!!
As with black beans, every Cuban cook has his or her own version of this famous recipe. Aside from the chicken and the Cuban sofrito, the traditional ingredients are saffron, Valencia rice, pimentos and peas. My grandmother also added canned asparagus to finish the dish and my aunt adds a bit of pimenton to the rice. This is a new twist and a welcomed addition. Pimenton is one of the key ingredients of the Spanish paella and it definitely adds depth to the flavor of the rice. Wine is not traditional and beer is debatable, but they also add to the flavor and I would not omit. Just like I add a dash of vodka on the rocks at the end of some of my recipes, I am sure there was a time when some Cuban did the same with the beer he had been drinking and that's how it became a part of the recipe.
Last December, for the second time since I've been in Georgia, I invited my son's in laws for a family gathering on the Sunday before Christmas. The first year I served them the Roast Pork and the Cuban Black Beans with a Flan for dessert. This year they had the Arroz Con Pollo with Fried Bananas, Avocado and Pineapple Salad and mother's Merengon for dessert. I am flattered my daughter in law's grandmother asked me for the recipe. Not only is she a fabulous cook but also one of the most gracious and charming of Southern ladies and the epitome of the old South. It is a pleasure to share this recipe with her.
The recipe is for 8 to 10 servings.
I usually figure on a cup of rice for 3 people and a piece and a half of chicken each.
It is best to buy a whole chicken and cut it up, as the pieces will be uniform in size. If you buy pieces, buy legs and thighs, bone in and skin on, as they have more flavor. Don't use breasts as the meat is too dry. If you must, only add a breast or two and cut them in half.
Valencia rice can be found in most supermarkets. I buy mine at Publix under the brand Mahatma.
Saffron can be found sometimes in the Latin section of the supermarket for less than you would normally pay in the Spices section.
If you cannot find pimentos unsliced in a jar, look for roasted red peppers.
Try to use Spanish olive oil. Remember what grows together goes together and olive oils differ in taste.
Pimenton is Spanish paprika and can be found in Specialty stores. I buy mine at HomeGoods! Don't substitute with regular or Hungarian paprika.
Buy the canned small peas and white or green asparagus, not frozen.
|Arroz Con Pollo A La Chorrera|
12 pieces of chicken, bone in and skin on, preferrably legs and thighs
Spanish olive oil
1 large onion diced
1 green pepper diced
3 lg cloves of garlic, mashed and finely diced
2 laurel leaves
1/2 tsp. Pimenton de la Vera (Spanish Paprika)
1/2 cup Pomi tomatoes crushed
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 1/2 cups Valencia rice
5 cups good chicken stock heated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can or bottle of beer (I used Heineken, but any good beer, not lite, will do)
1 can whole Pimentos
1 large can small Petite Peas (I use Le Seur)
1 jar or can white or green asparagus
Marinade the chicken in lemon juice, sliced onions and some garlic at least for a couple of hours. Remove from the marinade and dry in paper towels before browning.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the saffron. Turn off but keep warm.
In an oven proof deep skillet add 3 TB olive oil and slightly brown the chicken. Remove to a plate.
In the same skillet make a sofrito by adding the onions, green peppers, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the wine and 1 cup of the heated broth and saffron. Bring to a boil, Reduce the temperature to medium and add the Pomi tomatoes. Add the chicken and braise until tender and almost cooked.
Taste the sauce and correct for salt and pepper.
Add the rice, a pinch of pimenton and the remaining 3 1/2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Place in the preheated oven and cook until the rice is almost done. Add half of the beer and continue cooking. If the rice absorbs most of the beer and is still hard, add the other half and continue cooking until done. You want to make sure the rice is tender and moist and the consistency is similar to that of a risotto. Cooking time is approximately 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Cover the top with the pimentos halved, the petit pois and the asparagus in a decorative way.
All photos Lindaraxa