Arroz con Pollo is ubiquitous across Hispanic cultures. The recipes follow a similar basic approach that starts with browning the chicken, followed by making Sofrito and finishing by braising in a stock with rice.
There some differences in the spices and the braising liquids. A Puerto Rican version is likely to include beer and use Annatto for flavoring and color. In Spain, the braising liquid is more likely to include a splash of white wine and Saffron to give the rice is characteristic yellow color.
I made this dish on a recent Sunday afternoon when the weather was cool. Browsing Cuban vacations was my inspiration, but my cupboard yielded ingredients more typical to a Spanish interpretation. In other words, I had neither beer nor Annatto.
Chicken thighs are perfect for braised dishes such as Arroz con Pollo. Organic, bone-in, skin-on thighs are used here. But, traditionally a whole cut up chicken is used for this dish and if so, the carcass could be used to make the chicken stock needed later in the preparation. See this recipe for Coq au Vin for some insight on butchering a chicken and making a quick broth.
After browning the chicken pieces attention turns towards making Sofrito – a combination of aromatic vegetables used as a base in Spanish and Latin American cooking. It is similar to the Holy Trinity in Cajun cuisine and a Mirepoix in French Cooking. The ingredients in Sofrito vary considerably. This version consists of onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato.
With the Sofrito finished, the chicken is returned to the pot and a braising liquid is added consisting of white wine, chicken broth, tomato paste and saffron. The rice — a short grain Valencia rice – is added and cooked to finish the dish.
- 4 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
- 1 heaping teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 6 tablespoons every day olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Sofrito consisting of
- 1/2 medium onion finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 large cloves garlic finely minced
- 1/2 sweet pepper minced (about 1 cup)
- 1 small tomato chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 – 1/2 cups salt free chicken broth
- 1 large pinch of saffron steeped in warm water
- 1 – 1/2 cup Valencia rice (short grain)
- 1/2 cup green salad olives with pimento
- 1/2 frozen green peas
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- In a glass bowl, toss the chicken pieces with cumin powder, dried oregano, black pepper and salt. Cover and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. While the chicken is coming to temperature, pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil along with 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy cast iron pot. Heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer.
- Add the chicken skin side down and sauté until brown. About 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and sauté until the other side browns before removing chicken pieces to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.
- Add the reserved olive oil if needed and then add the Sofrito ingredients (onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato) to the same pan used to cook the chicken. Cook on medium low heat until the onions are translucent.
- Add white wine to deglaze the pan and cook on medium heat until the alcohol has evaporated.
- Return the chicken to the pan along with tomato paste, chicken broth and steeped saffron. Bring to a soft boil before adding the rice. Stir, cover and reduce the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.
- Add green salad olives and frozen green peas. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes to warm the olives and peas before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.