Much as every culture showcases their individual form of the dumpling (um, matzh balls) arroz con pollo, or chicken and rice, is a dish for which every Latin country has it’s own unique spin.
Some use beer versus wine, or crushed annatto rather than saffron, but one thing remains constant: arroz con pollo is one of the most crowd-pleasing dishes of a Cuban home. If you’re not familiar with this iconic dish, it might remind you of paella. With orange-tinged rice, and emerald peas jeweled throughout, I can see where that assessment would make sense, but nothing can be further from the truth. Arroz con pollo has its own merits. It’s affordable, it’s rich with flavor, as well as visually gratifying, and the best part of all is how quickly it cooks up, making it ideal for a family-friendly weeknight meal.
I have many distinct memories of eating arroz con pollo as a child, holding a chicken drumstick in each hand, and taking alternating bites from side to side. And as they say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, since my son now devours this dish. The next time you’re on the hunt for a quick and easy meal to feed a family, big or small, try making arroz con pollo and you may even figure out your own personal spin on the dish.
Cuban-Style Arroz Con Pollo
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 whole chicken (around 3-4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
Salt and Pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 cubs extra long grain rice
1 ¼ cup white wine (can use additional stock if preferred)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes (juice included)
2 cups chicken broth
½ tsp saffron threads, crushed
2 dried bay leaves
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
½ cup sliced green olives
Italian parsley for garnish
Pimento peppers for garnish
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium to high heat, and add chicken pieces. Season generously with salt and pepper, and brown the chicken pieces. Remove the chicken, and place on a plate.
Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, paprika, oregano, and cumin to the pot. Cook until onions soften, stirring periodically. Stir in the rice, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the white wine. When the liquid reaches a boil, add the chicken pieces, tomatoes, chicken broth, saffron, and bay leaves.
Cover the pot, and lower the heat to medium/low. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until most of the liquid evaporates and rice cooks through (*note: it should not be completely dry).
Turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaves, Stir in the frozen peas and the sliced olives, cover and let stand for 15 minutes.
Garnish with Italian parsley and pimento peppers. Serve immediately.