Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Arroz Con Pollo Recipe

One of my all time favorite dishes is, of course, one of my mom's specialties. Growing up in Arizona, I knew that arroz con pollo had a Spanish name, but it wasn't until I was much older that I realized this dish wasn't traditional Mexican food. Instead, it's a Caribbean dish that my mom learned to love when she was growing up on Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Now my mom's not Puerto Rican, but a Missouri-born gal who has spent much of her life in southern Arizona. But because of my grandpa's job, she spent most of her childhood living outside of the United States.

As mom remembers it, this dish was common fare in Puerto Rico, and a favorite of her next door neighbors, Don Juan (I kid you not) and his wife. Mom's clearest memory of Don Juan was that he went to a lot of cock fights, which leads her to wonder if that's why they ate this dish so often. Hmmm... don't want to think about that too much, so let's move on!

Mom doesn't have Mrs. Don Juan's recipe. But she found a recipe as an adult, and modified it until it tasted like the arroz con pollo of her childhood memories. And then in typical mom style, she made it for years and years without writing it down, perfecting it to the point where she just eyeballed ingredients.

I guess my mom's love for the dish carried on to me, because this was an often-requested meal when I came home during college (and still is). About two years ago, I asked mom for the recipe so I could have arroz con pollo in my own kitchen. Since she didn't have one, I watched her make it, demanding at every step, "how much did you just put in?" and taking copious notes.

So here - with mom's permission to share - is my mom's wonderful arroz con pollo recipe.

This recipe serves 4 very generously, or probably more like 6. Marinating takes an hour, and the actual cooking takes about an hour as well.


1 whole chicken, cut into pieces (I used 4 leg quarters because they were on sale, but do use bone-in, skin-on chicken. Trust me, the extra calories are worth it.)
6 cloves garlic, divided
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh oregano
1 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
2 cups white rice
2 tsp capers
1/4 tsp saffron
16 oz bag frozen peas
1 medium tomato, sliced into wedges

Make the marinade by combining 4 cloves garlic (I don't love garlic quite as much as mom, so I use two), salt, oregano, vinegar and olive oil. Mash them in a mortar (or mince everything and mix it a lot) and rub onto the chicken. Marinate for one hour.

In a dutch oven, brown the chicken in remaining tablespoon of oil, working in batches if necessary. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Add onions, bell pepper and garlic to dutch oven, cooking until onions are soft. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to dutch oven, cover, and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Without stirring the pot, add rice and between 3 and 4 cups of water. I know this is vague, but it really depends on how much liquid the chicken has released. (This is one of the times when mom says, frustratingly, "just add enough.") Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in capers and saffron. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. It will still look soupy at this point, but more water gets absorbed, don't despair.

Add peas and tomato, without stirring. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until peas are cooked.

Isn't that beautiful? Even though I just ate this for supper, my mouth waters just looking at the picture!

One note to share: all that not stirring the pot makes for a crust of rice on the bottom. If you cook over heat that is too hot, it makes a burned crust that is difficult to scrape out of the pan. If you find the elusive "just right" temperature, it makes a beautiful brown crust of crunchy rice that is quite good. I'm obviously still looking for "just right," so I'd better go scrape the bottom of my dutch oven some more...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...