Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Arroz con Pollo (or con Tofu), a la WhatEye8

Arroz con Pollo, a la WhatEye8

When I worked at a Mexican restaurant back in the 80s, we had a delicious arroz con pollo dish--steamed, fresh chicken on yellow rice that was smothered in sour cream and cheddar cheese. Not very Mexican at all, but it was yummy. Over the years, I've tried to craft a more authentic arroz con pollo dish--truly one of the great classic entrees of the world--with not a great deal of satisfaction--until now.

Arroz con pollo is a basic pilaf, after all, not that different from jambalaya or paella.What follows is not strictly traditional--it's more of a variation on a theme. But it's a family-pleaser and is certainly easy to pull together. It just takes a bit of juggling with several different pots and containers. But the result is intensely flavored and simply delightful--makes wonderful leftovers, too.

You can always make this into a vegetarian dish using vegetable stock and tofu or tempeh, if you like. If you go for chicken, you can always use bone in chicken. I like it with boneless thighs--easy to work with and always tender.

Chicken (or Tofu)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon  ground cumin
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (or use bone-in if you don't mind picking the bones out later)
Pepper and salt to taste (go easy on the salt--see Notes, below)

Rice

One white onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
1 1/2 cups white jasmine rice
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 can organic tomato chunks and sauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce
8 large or 10 small green pimiento stuffed olives, sliced
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped into bits (optional, but recommended)
1/2 cup corn (optional) 
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Chopped parsley, cilantro for color

  1. Dredge the raw chicken (or tofu chunks) in the dry seasoning ingredients from the Chicken (or Tofu) list. Set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed pot (like Le Creuset), saute the onions in the olive oil until just tender, around 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse the rice and then add to the pot with the onions. Stir fry for around 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, saute the dredged chicken for around 5 or 6 minutes per side in a frying pan. Set aside.
  5. Heat the stock (chicken or vegetable) in a microwave or on the stove until boiling. Add all at once to the onion and rice mixture.
  6.  Begin adding in the other ingredients on the Rice list, stirring after each addition.
  7. After all the ingredients have been added to the rice mixture, gently place the semi-cooked chicken on top. 
  8. Cover the pot but leave about an inch for the steam to escape (there is extra moisture built into the recipe with the tomatoes and the tomato sauce--that needs to go somewhere, or it will make the rice mushy)
  9. Set the timer for 20 minutes (the length of time it takes for the rice to absorb the liquid) and then remove from heat and remove the top to allow the remainder of the liquid to be absorbed.
  10. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley or cilantro. 

Notes

  • You can add other vegetables, depending on what you have on hand. Peas are good. So are small carrot chunks. My family loves this with sweet corn.
  • Don't use too much salt in the dredging part--the stock and the bacon and the green olives all have enough salt to carry this without adding much extra. 
  • Even though I rarely use powdered garlic, it's a great ingredient for dry rubs--and that's what we are doing by dredging the chicken (or tofu) with the seasonings.
  • The green olives and the bacon bits add a flavor punch. Of course, leave out the bacon if you are doing vegetarian



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