This is my take on a very popular Latin American dish.
Arroz con Pollo, quite literally, translates to “rice with chicken” and if I had to eat one comfort meal for the rest of my life, this dish might just be that.
I grew up in South Florida, where the Cuban and Caribbean culture heavily influenced the food scene. Think rice and beans, sugary sweet plantains, pork with mojo sauce, fresh seafood and mojitos. Lots of mojitos. When I moved to California a few years ago, I was instantly homesick for good, authentic Latin American food and after one really bad “Cuban sandwich” at a local Puerto Rican restaurant, I knew it was time to start cooking. I say “Cuban Sandwich” in quotes because this sandwich was anything but a Cuban sandwich. Luckily, I also found Sol Food but it’s a little far for me to travel every time I get a craving. If you live in Northern California and you’ve never eaten at Sol Food well…go today. Please. Then, let’s talk.
But let’s get back to the dish at hand—Arroz con Pollo. When my brother passed away, it was all I ate for days on end. It seemed to just magically appear and every time I thought it was gone, more came. It was like Tampa’s official meal for the mourning. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could ever eat arroz con pollo again but then I did, and it was every bit as delicious and comforting as I remember it being. Funny how food is that way.
Trust me, you want to make this. It’s worth every single minute that you spend cooking it, and is the perfect meal for company or to take to a friend that’s had a crummy day.
To start, you need a whole chicken!
Don’t be scared of breaking it down yourself—it’s actually cheaper this way than buying all those separate chicken parts at the store.
If you’ve never done this before, here’s a handy dandy little slideshow that shows you how better than I can explain it. Basically, people will tell you that you should end up with eight parts but I only do six because I’m not a fan of the wings.
So, below you have two plump chicken breasts, two thighs and two drumsticks.
After you break down your chicken, wash your hands and make the marinade. It’s just fresh orange juice, lime juice, canola oil, garlic and salt.
Pour that right over your chickie and let her take a nice little bath for an hour in the fridge.
Now here’s where my variation on arroz con pollo is different than some. I LOVE using roasted grape tomatoes. It does require a bit more work, but the end result is so worth it because the tomatoes add sooooo much intense flavor. You’re gonna love it.
After marinating, you want to brown your chicken pieces then remove to a plate while you cook the vegetables. Lots of green peppers, garlic and onions in this!
And saffron! Oh saffron…how I love you. This is what gives this dish it’s authentic flavor and pretty yellow hue.
You prep everything on the stove then just pop it into the oven for twenty short minutes and that’s where the magic happens! The rice absorbs all the liquid and gets fluffy and flavorful. The chicken also finishes cooking and becomes so tender that it falls off at the bone.
Finally, sprinkle on some green peas and chopped olives and you’re good to go! Serve your arroz con pollo with plenty of hot sauce! And maybe a mojito (or two) on the side.
Arroz con Pollo
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (about one orange)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
for chicken and rice—
1 whole 4 – 4 1/2 lb chicken
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
2 pints cherry tomatoes
2 green bell peppers, diced
2 cups diced yellow onions (about 1 1/2 small onions or 1 large onion)
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup pimento stuffed green olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green peas
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp saffron, crushed
1 bay leaf
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups white rice, uncooked
3 cups chicken broth
hot sauce for serving
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread the cherry tomatoes out on a lined baking sheet and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. Roast tomatoes for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until slightly charred and bursting. Remove from oven and set aside.
Cut up your chicken into six parts (I don’t like to include the wings but you can if you want!). You should end up with two large breasts, two thighs and two legs. Place chicken parts in a large shallow dish.
Mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour in the fridge.
After an hour, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over high heat in a heavy 5 1/2-quart ovenproof pot (here’s the one I have). Once the oil is hot, add half of the chicken pieces and brown on both sides—this should take about six minutes—you just want to brown the chicken here, not actually cook it through. After that half of chicken is done, remove and set on a plate then brown the remaining pieces of chicken.
After all your chicken is done and on a plate, add the onions, diced green pepper and garlic to the hot oil. Saute veggies for about five minutes.
Add cumin, paprika, salt, pepper and crushed saffron to the veggies and mix well. Add roasted cherry tomatoes and diced tomatoes and mix. Add bay leaf.
Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then and add the rice, stirring well to combine.
Lay the chicken pieces in the pot, cover tightly with a lid and place in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. After baking, rice should have absorbed most of the liquid and be fluffy. The chicken pieces should be completely done.
When the arroz con pollo is done, stir in the peas and chopped olives and serve with lots of hot sauce on the side!
**don’t forget to remove the bay leaf before eating!
2 hours (includes time to marinate chicken)