Finally, Arroz con Pollo
I have been thinking about Arroz con Pollo all week, but the madness of the end of the semester has kept me out of the kitchen. I have been subsisting on bad take out sandwiches, jarred spaghetti sauce, and Boboli. Well, tonight I decided that I’ve been out of the kitchen too long. I took a break from my frantic preparations for my presentation tomorrow to finally put together the dinner I’ve been dreaming of since I watched Jorge Ayala beat Bobby Flay’s ass on Throwdown with his delectable-looking Arroz con Pollo.
I’m not sure my version is anywhere near Ayala’s, but I’m pretty satisfied. The texture ended up more creamy and risotto-like than I expected, but is that ever a bad thing? I realized when I was cleaning up and putting away leftovers that I forgot to add the crushed tomatoes, but I don’t think the flavor was lacking anything for that. And I’ve discovered that adobo seasoning may be one of my new kitchen favorites. The only thing that pushed this a little toward the not-so-favorite dinners is that I’m not a huge fan of chicken thighs. I don’t know why I don’t just realize that once and for all and stop cooking them. I think using bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts rather than thighs would have made this just that much more awesome.
I spent a good amount of time searching around the interwebs for a good Arroz con Pollo recipe (because clearly I have nothing more important to do with my time, ahem), and ended up just piecing together this recipe from everything I read online and what I vaguely remember Ayala doing on the show. If I had beer, I would have added a little before adding the broth. If I had achiote oil I would have used that instead of the spicy chili oil I did use. And yeah, there are those tomatoes I left out. I debated using jarred sofrito, but opted to make my own instead with fresh peppers and onions. Mr. X, however, used jarred sofrito in the beans he made last week and they had that exact taqueria flavor I’ve been trying to duplicate for years, so there might be something to that jarred stuff. Perhaps I’ll check it out next time. I feel like this might be a recipe worth experimenting with.
Arroz con Pollo
- 1 medium onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 poblano pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on (or use chicken breasts or whatever part of the chicken you prefer)
- 2 T. adobo seasoning
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. chili oil
- 2 c. long grain white rice
- 4 c. chicken stock
- 1 c. frozen sweet peas (you could probably use fresh, too. I think that’s allowed.)
- Spanish manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos
- a few dashes of hot sauce
Cut the onion, peppers, and garlic into a small dice and combine: This is the sofrito.
Mix the adobo seasoning, cumin, and dried oregano together. Trim any excess fat or weird bits off the chicken, and then dredge each piece in the adobo mixture.
Heat the olive oil and the chili oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once it’s nice and hot, add the chicken pieces, skin side down. If you have to cook them in batches to avoid overcrowding them, go right ahead. They are claustrophobic little guys and they need a lot of room. Cook them for about four minutes before flipping them over and cooking them for another four or five minutes. You want them to just be light golden brown.
Remove the mostly cooked chicken to a plate, and add the sofrito to the hot chicken oil in the pot. Stir to coat everything in oil, and let it sit for a few minutes. Cook the sofrito until all the vegetables are softened and slightly golden, probably about three to five minutes. Give it a stir every now and then and scrape up some of the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
Now stir in the rice, and the chicken stock. Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. Once you’re boiling, you can lower the heat to a simmer and nestle the chicken pieces back in among the rice and liquid. Now just cover the pot and let it cook away until the liquid is almost entirely aborbed. No one likes mushy peas, so you want to add those when the rice is almost, but not quite finished. Just stir them in frozen, and let the rice continue to cook for another five minutes or so.
Once all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken is cooked through, you are good to go. Garnish each dish with some delicious salty olives, and perhaps with some cilantro if you have it (mine went very bad in the long period of time I was not in the kitchen, so I couldn’t do that). I also added a little bit of hot sauce (Cholula) but I’m not sure how necessary it was. The dish itself isn’t particularly spicy or anything, so I guess that is up to you.
This was terrific comfort food on this cold, gray, dismal day. And while it wasn’t quite the transcendent masterpiece I was dreaming of all week, it was deeply satisfying food, with a great balance of flavors and textures. (Wow, am I seriously talking about my food’s textures? Did I just say deeply satisfying? I need this semester to be over, my brain is experiencing some serious exhaustion.)
The other bonus about Arroz con Pollo? I have a crazy amount of leftovers, so I should be able to avoid the bad take out for the rest of the week.