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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arroz con Pollo

August is Puerto Rican month for Gozamos, a celebration of family, adventure and love.  I struggled with what recipe to make because there are so many options and so little time.  I reached out to a very good friend who is dating a Puerto Rican descendant, hoping for some new super secret recipe concoction. The response back was "we can help, but it's probably gonna involve deep frying hoofs"...  After my giddy excitement wore down, I realized this is not exactly an undertaking most readers are going to want to take on.  Save that for another day.

Ok, so go to the opposite end of the spectrum- the most notable, staple Puerto Rican dish- Arroz con Pollo or Rice with Chicken. I must be completely crazy to showcase my version of Arroz con Pollo, this dish that every Puerto Rican family has their own tradition for.  Some add peas and some don't, some use saffron and some don't, some have bacon or ham and some people let the bottom brown to the point of crispy rice like a paella. There is so much to say about this staple dish, like the sofrito that is the base (the garlic, onion and pepper trio) or the adobo rub on the chicken; just know variations are endless.

Now, I know I'm opening myself up to a lot of potential comments and criticism, for certainly there are many versions more traditional than mine. I'm willing to take that chance. If you look at this dish for what it is, a super simple, one pot dish of chicken and rice, then maybe, just maybe a hint of praise will find its way too.

The key to this post is to celebrate the Puerto Rican love for family and food- chicken, hoofs and all.  Cook up this tradition, invite your mom/grandma/family over, fight for your version of this recipe and be revel in the  fat and happiness of it all.

Tips and Techniques:  Use bone-in (dark) chicken rather than a chicken breast to impart a deeper flavor. If you use a true long grain rice, the rice could take up to 1 hour to cook. For a soupier (sopa) version, add another cup of wine or broth.

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)

1 lb chicken (whole or pieces)
3 tbls garlic powder
2 tbls dried oregano
fresh pepper

5 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 heaping cup red pepper, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp salt

8 oz tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 cup dry white wine
pinch of saffron
1 tsp paprika
1 lime
1/4 cup chopped green olives
1/2 cup peas (optional)

Begin by rubbing the chicken with the garlic, oregano and pepper.  Brown the chicken pieces in a cast iron pot in a few tablespoons of canola or olive oil.

While the chicken is cooking, soak the rice in the wine with the saffron and 1 tsp of paprika.  Chop the garlic, onion and pepper if you haven't.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  In the same chicken pan, add the onion, pepper and garlic; saute for about 10 minutes.  Add in the cumin, paprika and salt, continue to saute for another 5 minutes.

Add in the tomato sauce, the chicken broth and the chicken with any juice that might have seeped out.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the chicken for 10 minutes and then add in the rice and wine.  Simmer until the rice is fluffy.  Remove from heat.  Sprinkle with the chopped olives, and peas and squeeze the lime over the top.  Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley or cilantro.

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