Ever come across one of those recipes that, by name alone, sound pretty uninteresting, but then you make it and are kinda blown away? For me, it’s Arroz con Pollo. I mean, let’s break that down– it’s chicken and rice, right? How much fun can that be?
Turns out, a lot of fun, and a ton of flavor. Someone should really come up with a better name for it, because while it might be a staple for lots of Latin American households, I doubt I ever would have made it if I hadn’t been assigned to do it in class. Now that I know, though, you can be sure it’ll be something I make pretty regularly.
Every Latin American country has a version of this. The one we made (at least according to the book) is a Puerto Rican variation, and it’s kind of similar to a paella. Don’t be scared away by the number of ingredients! I don’t think any of them should be very hard to find, and can pretty easily be substituted with whatever similar ingredient you can find.
The original recipe calls for one whole 2 1/2 to 3 lb chicken cut up, but you could lower the total cost of the dish by just using chicken thighs and/or legs. I’m a fan of dark meat for dishes like this anyway, so when I make it again, that’s probably what I’ll do. You could also substitute with a chicken sausage, if you wanted to go that route. The steps would be the same, regardless, so don’t be afraid to apply a little imagination to this recipe.
This recipe serves 4 generously.
Knife & cutting board
Measuring cups & spoons
1 gallon sized freezer bag
Mise en place containers
Pot for making the annatto oil (If you choose to make it. I’ll list that recipe separately.)
Container or large plate for holding the chicken
Blender or food processor to make the sofrito (I’ll list that recipe separately, too.)
8 pieces of chicken
1/2 C longaniza or linguiza or just plain old ham, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 C bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 1/2 C chicken stock
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 T Red wine vinegar
2 T Annatto Oil*
1 C white onion, 3/4 inch dice
1 C red bell pepper, 3/4 inch dice
2 T green sofrito**
1/2 C tomato sauce
1 C banana peppers, 3/4 inch dice
2 C long grain rice
2 T capers, rinsed
Wash the chicken and pat it dry. Mix together the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and vinegar in the freezer bag. Place the chicken pieces in the bag and zip it closed, then toss the chicken around in the bag to thoroughly coat it with the marinade. Let it stand for 30-45 minutes.
While you’re waiting, if all the rest of your prep is done, feel free to watch that episode of Scandal that’s been sitting in your Hulu queue since last week, or ponder the meaning of life, or research how to cut your own bangs. Maybe lock yourself in the bathroom with the new Ikea catalog. Or just sit there and stare into space. This is your time.
After the chicken soaks in its little flavor spa for awhile, brown it in the annatto oil, then set it aside.
In the same skillet, brown the ham/longaniza and bacon. Drain off all but about 3 tablespoons of the fat.
Add the onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper, sofrito, tomato sauce, and banana peppers. Stir it all to combine and let it cook for about 2-3 more minutes.
Add the capers as well as the rice and stir it to get all the grains coated really well in the sauce, cooking for about 2 minutes.
Add the chicken pieces back to the skillet, along with the chicken stock, and salt to taste. Bring it all to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook it for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and the chicken is tender.
For those of you who are more intimately familiar with a Crock Pot, I’m sure this recipe could be adapted for slower cooking. If you are one of those people, and you figure it out, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to update this recipe with your slow cooker directions.
Imagine tucking into a plate of this deliciousness on a cold day. Aside from some pretty basic chopping and dicing, this recipe comes together without a lot of fuss. There’s so much more to it than the name implies, and the results are so full of flavor and color!
NOTE: If you can’t find/don’t feel like hunting down Achiote seeds, feel free to just use regular vegetable oil, or another flavored oil that would fit the flavor profile of the dish. The seeds give the oil a bright red color, which then colors the chicken as its cooked, but it’s by no means absolutely critical to the overall flavor of the dish, in my opinion.
1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C Achiote seeds
Heat the oil over a low heat, add the seeds. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until the oil is brightly colored. Cool the oil, then strain out the seeds. The unused portion can be stored in the fridge.
This is a super easy puree made of aromatics that can be used to flavor just about any vegetable based sauce or soup. You’ll make more than you need, but freeze the rest in ice cube trays, transfer the sofrito cubes to a freezer bag, and throw one or two into all those yummy stews and soups you’ll be making this winter.
2 medium green bell peppers or cubanelle peppers, seeded
2 medium onions, peeled and rough chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of cilantro leaves
Water, as needed
Throw everything into a blender or food processor and pulse until you have a paste. You can add some water a little at a time if the mixture needs to be loosened up a bit to combine, but remember, you’re not making soup! It should be a loose paste.