Made this the other night after watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen. It is so good. My husband, who is not a foodie, said to please add this to my repertoire of dinners.
Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken)
Though chicken and rice is a classic combination, creating a single Latin American version was far from simple.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
A staple in Latin American kitchens, arroz con pollo combines inexpensive ingredients—chicken, rice, and spices—in a filling one-pot meal. To make our version, we chose moist chicken thighs, which we browned in a Dutch oven to build flavor and render fat. We used the food processor to transform onion, cilantro, cubanelle pepper, garlic, and cumin into a flavorful sofritothat serves as the backbone for the dish. We found that we preferred medium-grain rice to long- and short-grain varieties because it gave the dish a creamy, cohesive texture. Sazón seasoning does double duty here, adding both savory flavor and vibrant color.
|1||cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped|
|1||onion, chopped (1 cup)|
|1||Cubanelle pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (3/4 cup)|
|5||garlic cloves, chopped coarse|
|1||teaspoon ground cumin|
|3 ½||tablespoons lemon juice (2 lemons), plus lemon wedges for serving|
|Salt and pepper|
|6||(5- to 7-ounce) bone in chicken thigh, trimmed|
|1||tablespoon vegetable oil|
|2||cups medium-grain rice, rinsed|
|1||tablespoon Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto|
|2 ½||cups chicken broth|
|¼||cup pimento-stuffed green olives, halved|
|2||tablespoons capers, rinsed|
|½||cup frozen peas, thawed (optional)|
Sazón is a spice blend common in Latin American cooking. We developed this recipe with Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto (or con Culantro y Achiote). It can be found in the international aisle of most supermarkets; however, other brands will work. (One tablespoon of Goya Sazón equals about two packets.) If you can’t find sazón, use our homemade version. You can substitute 3/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper for the Cubanelle pepper. Allow the rice to rest for the full 15 minutes before lifting the lid to check it. Long-grain rice may be substituted for medium-grain, but the rice will be slightly less creamy.
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Process cilantro, 1/2 cup onion, Cubanelle, garlic, and cumin in food processor until finely chopped, about 20 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer sofrito to bowl.
2. Process mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons sofrito in now-empty processor until almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer mayonnaise-herb sauce to small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add chicken to pot skin side down and cook without moving it until skin is crispy and golden, 7 to 9 minutes. Flip chicken and continue to cook until golden on second side, 7 to 9 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to plate; discard skin.
4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add remaining 1/2 cup onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in rice and Sazón and cook until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.
5. Stir in broth, olives, capers, bay leaves, remaining sofrito, remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle chicken into pot along with any accumulated juices and bring to vigorous simmer. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake for 20 minutes.
6. Transfer pot to wire rack and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff rice with fork and stir in peas, if using. Discard bay leaves. Serve with mayonnaise-herb sauce and lemon wedges.
INGREDIENT SPOTLIGHTMEDIUM-GRAIN RICE
After experimenting with long-, medium-, and short-grain rices in our Arroz con Pollo, we decided to call for the medium type, which produced a distinct texture that we preferred. Medium-grain rices (such as Bomba) produced a creamy, cohesive result because their exterior starches thickened the dish while the grains remained firm and distinct. Long-grain varieties like basmati or jasmine will do, but the dish will be less creamy. Finally, short-grain varieties, like Arborio or sushi rice, produced a creamy texture because short-grain rice starts to release its starch (and more of it) at a lower temperature than long-grain rice does.
- Medium-Grain: Best for arroz con pollo
- Long-Grain: Too separate
- Short-Grain: Too sticky
Sazón (the term means “seasoning” in Spanish) is the signature spice blend of Latino home cooks; it’s used in everything from beans and rice to soups, stews, and more. There are many blends (we call for Culantro y Achiote in our Arroz con Pollo recipe), and ingredients vary, but sazón traditionally contains ground annatto (or achiote) seeds, which give dishes a rich yellow color. Garlic powder, cumin, and coriander are also often included. Sazón also typically contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is what supplies the savoriness. Look for sazón in the Latin American or international section of the supermarket.
There are many Sazón varieties. Make sure you pick the right one.
THE AMERICAN TABLE
PUERTO RICAN FLAVOR
Now in its 38th printing, Carmen Aboy Valldejuli’s Puerto Rican Cookery (1975) stands as one of the most enduring 20th-century cookbooks focused on that island’s complex cuisine.
Why so complex? As Aboy Valldejuli (cousin to Hollywood star José Ferrer) explains it, “One can seldom be exactly sure of how any really ancient dish began, of course. But it is safe to say that our cocina criolla [creole cuisine] was initiated by the first human inhabitants of the islands, the Arawaks and the Taínos. For almost five hundred years the basic ingredients the Indians used have been enriched by the culinary skills of newcomers—Spanish, British, French, Danish and Dutch settlers, and slaves brought forcibly from Africa. The delicate blends and innovations of five centuries have developed a genuine cuisine.” Also traceable back to Taíno culture? Good old American-style barbecue, based on techniques the original islanders called barbacoa.
Carmen Aboy Valldejuli worked with her husband Luis on many of the recipes in Puerto Rican Cookery, including a chapter on rum cocktails.