I guess one of the most beloved of chicken dishes in Cuba, Arroz con Pollo can make any meal special. The rice for this dish is short-grained Valencia-style rice, the same as used for Paella, another of the wonderful Spanish dishes that have found a home in many of the Latin American Countries. If you cannot find it in your area, the Italian Arborio rice will be a good substitute.
Unlike Paella, saffron is not traditionally used in Arroz con Pollo, although some people do. Instead they use Annatto Oil, to give the yellow coloring expected in this dish. Sometimes you can find yellow rice already packaged. This recipe serves 6 to 8 people.
- 1 large chicken, about 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces.
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Sofrito and broth:
- 2 Tbsp Annatto oil or olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
- 3 cups water (*)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1-1/2 cups beer
- 1/2 tsp annatto seeds, or 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lb Valencia or Arborio rice
- Sliced red pimientos for garnish
- Can of green peas (Petit Pois) for garnish
- Wash the chicken and blot dry with paper towels. Mix the oregano, cumin, white pepper and vinegar in a large glass bowl. Add the chicken, turning the pieces to cover with the mixture. Let marinate at least 15 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a large heatproof casserole (**) Brown the chicken pieces all over, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a platter and pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the oil in the casserole, cook over medium heat heat until soft but do not brown, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the tomato and cook for one more minute. Return the chicken to the casserole with the sofrito and cook for about 1 or 2 more minutes.
- Add the water, wine and beer(*), saffron (if you use it instead of annatto oil), tomato paste and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, place annato seeds in small saucepan with 1/4 cup of the chicken cooking liquid. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain mixture back into the chicken.
To finish the dish:
- Thoroughly wash rice swishing with your hands, and drain off the water. Continue doing this until water runs clear.
- Bring chicken mixture to a boil, stir in the washed rice, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. If it starts to dry out and rice is still al dente, add more liquid. If it gets too soupy, uncover during the last 10 or 15 minutes of cooking.
- Just before it is done, stir in half of the petit pois and pimientos. Garnish with the rest.
(*) I use only the beer, adjusting the quantity to the total needed for cooking. Beer gives it a nice tangy flavor.
(**)I have a clay paella dish which I use for Arroz con Pollo, Paella and other similar dishes. You can purchase them in many Latino markets.