Monday, September 20, 2010

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice) - Serves 4

Arroz con Pollo is comfort food to me. My mother, who is Costa Rican, used to make it often when I was a kid and I always loved it. She put potatoes, olives and raisins in hers; I generally omit the potatoes but like the addition of raisins and sometimes put in olives, if I remember. My mom used to make a big pot of small, red beans to go on top of the rice... so yummy! These beans are typical of Central American cooking and have a hearty, delicious flavor that is different from the regular kidney beans used in other Latin kitchens. I can't imagine eating Arroz con Pollo without some fried platanos (plantains) on the plate. Just let them get ripe (golden with streaks of black on the skin.) Not too ripe or they will absorb too much grease. Please use Valencia rice; this is a must! The rice is what makes the dish! Make as much as you need, depending on how many people are eating. This is a great dish to make for company. And it's very economical too. You can even make it with rotisserie chicken or left over shredded chicken. Don't worry about exact amounts of the vegetables or meat. I never measure anything when I cook. Just make sure the rice is moist. There should be excess liquid in the dish when you are done. That is the correct way to make Arroz con Pollo. This dish is a staple in my home. Delicious!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice, Latin Style)

1 1/4 cup Valencia rice
4-6 legs or breasts of Chicken, shredded or on the bone.
1/2 Large Onion, roughly chopped
1/2 Green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 Red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced.
1/2 15 oz can petite cut tomatoes
3/4 cup of frozen peas and carrots
Good quality Olive oil, extra virgin if possible
3 3/4- 4 1/2 cups Chicken broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Parsley
Pinch of Saffron threads (optional)
1/4 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Annatto
Raisins, a handful (optional
6 Spanish Olives with pimiento (optional) Chopped fine or left whole

If using shredded chicken, cook chicken parts in simmering water until cooked, about 30 minutes. Take out chicken pieces and set aside. Shred the chicken when it is cool enough to touch. Save the broth to cook the rice in.

If using bone in chicken, brown the chicken pieces in a little olive oil then set aside. Don't worry about completely cooking them through, as they will cook in the rice and broth later on. Pour off the oil and then begin making the suffrito in the same pan.

In a large pan on medium heat, sauté onions until limp. Add Green bell pepper and about 2/3 of the red pepper slices. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and sauté just a minute, and then add the canned tomatoes, olives, raisins, the cumin, oregano and parsley, paprika, annatto, salt and pepper. This is called a suffrito and is the basis of many Latin dishes. Push the suffrito to one side of the pan and add a little more olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) Add the rice to the oil and sauté for about 2 minutes until all the rice is coated and a bit toasty. Mix the rice with the suffrito and add the broth. Stir and taste the broth. If it needs more salt add a little more. Add the chicken and mix into the rice mixture. Add the saffron threads. Let the rice simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Make sure the heat is not too high because it will burn the rice on the bottom. Add the peas and carrots and put the remaining red bell pepper strips decoratively across the top of the rice. Lower heat to med low and put a lid over the pan. Cook another 10-15 minutes. Test the rice to see if it's done. The rice should be soupy and not dry. Add more broth or water if it gets too dry.

Serve with fried plantains and a crisp garden salad of tomatoes, red onions, avocado, cucumber and lettuce with sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

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