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An Original One Pot Meal
So what do you get when you add rice, chicken, broth, and delicious aromatic vegetables in one pot? You get Arroz con Pollo. Arroz con Pollo is easily one of those dishes created for when the time is short, and we are busy, but we needed to get something cooked fast. I tend to think of the origins of how certain dishes are created, and my best guess is that someone, in their haste, accidentally put rice in the same pot as they were going to make a chicken in sauce and came up with this masterpiece.
Growing up, I was a bit of a picky eater. I didn't care much for beans and found many portions of meat to be quite dry. But this dish was an exception. Thankfully I was given the drumstick, which almost always is juicy, the same as the thighs. I love me some juicy dark meat!
Table of contents
Don't you hate a dry chicken breast?
Arroz con pollo is made with the whole chicken. The traditional recipe calls for cooking this dish for one hour and 25 minutes, roughly. Which to me sounds like a crazy amount of time to cook a chicken breast and rice, for that matter. So today we are going to cook it my way, and since I am Puerto Rican, it is still a very Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo. Yes, I played that card, lol.
Let's talk about the one-pot
As I get ready to write about a good pot to use for making chicken and rice, I realize that maybe an equipment post should be coming soon. But for today, we will talk about what to look for in a great pot to make this dish.
If you follow any of my previous posts, you might have read my thoughts on cast iron. So, it comes as no surprise that I favor cast iron, and for this recipe, I used my Lodge Enamel Dutch Oven. I like my dutch oven because it is all metal and I can use it on the stove and oven.
Now, if you were to go to Rosa's house to eat this delicious dish, you might see her using one of these beauties.
This little aluminum pot has become a mainstay in many Hispanic homes. As a matter of fact, we had one of these at my house while I was growing up. Until a pots and pans salesman came over and convinced my mother to buy otherwise, believe me, it was not a bad decision. But my grandmother would still cook her rice in her aluminum pot. I have to say, many of my Hispanic friends still use this pot for cooking their rice. Many would swear that it is the only pot to cook rice and make what we call "pegao." Pegao (pay-gah-oh) is the rice that is stuck to the bottom of the pot. We love this crispy goodness after cooking. This pegao is like a little price full of flavor, and the cook would normally get the winnings.
Aluminum versus cast iron
Although, I do agree with my fellow Hispanic communities when they say that you do not get good pegao if making rice with anything else. But there is a reason; the aluminum pan transfers heat quicker than steel. Therefore your chance of having your rice stick to the bottom of your pan is greater. Many restaurants to this day still use aluminum saute pans for cooking on the line because they transfer heat so easily. Still, the truth is these pans and pots do score easily if using an abrasive sponge allows for bacteria to grow if not properly cleaned. I like cast iron, not for the quick transfer of heat but for how iron retains heat. Once you get a cast iron pan hot, you can adjust the heating element to your needs. I admit it takes some getting used to them, but they are quite versatile.
Aluminum also tends to leach into food if using vinegar or acidic ingredients. That is another reason why I do not use aluminum. I enjoy cooking with wine and tomatoes too much to take on those risks. So, along with my cast iron, I do have a stainless steel set. Don't get me wrong; stainless steel pots are mostly a combination of either aluminum or copper cores with stainless steel bonded surfaces. These pots and pans bond the benefits of quick heat distribution of aluminum with the sleekness of stainless steel.
So, should you buy an all aluminum pot for your everyday cooking? If you cannot afford a really good set, or you are just starting out, do so. I have found that when I cook with really inexpensive pots and pans I actually have to babysit it more and be more alert, for I will burn my food faster than when I have used better quality products. There is a reason why pot and pan manufacturers invest time and effort in research, though. If cooking is something you truly enjoy, then treat yourself and purchase a great cookware set, that will last for years and become a better investment.
Mise en Place. Everything in its place before we begin!
I make my chicken and rice with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I find chicken thighs to render a moist dish. Take the chicken and wash and dry it with paper towels. You have an option here. You can dice the chicken now or leave the thighs whole. I prefer to leave the thighs whole and diced them halfway through cooking. I only like this because I feel it prevents me from overcooking the chicken thighs. Also, it allows me to serve the whole thigh if I choose to halfway through cooking. Now, season the chicken thighs with adobo. Set in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Day of cooking
In a caldero or heavy kettle, heat fat. Reduce heat to moderate, add chicken pieces, and cook for 5 minutes. We want to create a quick sear on the meat. This creates a great deal of flavor on both the chicken and the pot. When we add the other ingredients, they will absorb the flavors, and the dish will be that much more delectable. Remove from the pot and set aside. Allow the meat to rest.
Add diced onions and cook quickly until onions are translucent for 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add sofrito or sofrito cubes, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using frozen cubes, wait for the cubes to dissolve before and cook quickly for a few minutes. While sofrito dissolves and mingles with the onions, dice the chicken into bite-size pieces.
Add rice and achiote oil to the kettle (or olive oil if achiote oil is unavailable). Mix over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring to cover the grains of rice with the oil. Add the chicken and liquid. Cook uncovered at moderate heat for about five minutes.
Add peas, then cover and bring heat to low for 15 minutes, or until rice dries completely. With a fork, turn rice from bottom to top. Spoon rice into a serving platter. Serve at once.
A quick Fun-Fact
Because the dish is a whole bunch of stuff cooked up together, we use the term "arroz con pollo" in Puerto Rico to describe a mess, like a "hot mess." Let's say I decided to rearrange my closet. So I remove everything from inside the closet and have all the boxes and items spread out in the living room. My husband walks into the room and would say, "Y que clase de arroz con pollo es pesto?!", "What kind of arroz con pollo do you have here?!"
- Arroz con Dulce, Puerto Rican Rice Pudding
- Favorite Coquito Recipe
- Budín de Pan (Puerto Rican Bread Pudding)
- Tender Chicken and Chorizo Stew
- Red Sangria
- Pumpkin Fritters, Barriguitas de Vieja (Old Lady Bellies)
Arroz con Pollo
- 1½ pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
- 4 tablespoons adobo
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Half of a yellow onion peeled and diced
- 2 cubes of sofrito or 2 tablespoons of thawed sofrito
- Salt to taste
- 10 olives stuffed with pimientos
- 2 tablespoons fat or Achiote Coloring oil optional for color
- 1 cup of rice I use Jasmine Rice which is a longer rice. See notes for varying liquid depending on the rice.
- 1 ¼ cup of water
- ½ cup or 4 ounces frozen green peas
- In a caldero or heavy kettle, heat fat. Reduce heat to moderate, add chicken pieces, and cook for 5 minutes. We want to create a quick sear on the meat. This creates a great deal of flavor on both the chicken and the pot. When we add the other ingredients, they will absorb the flavors, and the dish will be that much more delectable. Remove from the pot and set aside. Allow the meat to rest.
- Add diced onions and cook quickly until onions are translucent for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low, add sofrito or sofrito cubes, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using frozen cubes, wait for the cubes to dissolve before and cook quickly for a few minutes. While sofrito dissolves and mingles with the onions, dice the chicken into bite-size pieces.
- Add rice and achiote oil to the kettle (or olive oil if achiote oil is unavailable). Mix over moderate heat for 2 minutes, stirring to cover the grains of rice with the oil.
- Add the chicken and liquid.
- Cook uncovered at moderate heat for about five minutes.
- Add peas, then cover and bring heat to low for 15 minutes, or until rice dries completely.
- With a fork, turn rice from bottom to top.
- Spoon rice into a serving platter. Serve at once.
- Searing creates a great deal of flavor on both the chicken and the pot. When we add the other ingredients, they will absorb the flavors, and the dish will be that much more delectable.
- I like to use skinless, boneless chicken thighs for speed and flavor. The thighs being dark meat will not dry in the cooking process. Boneless thighs also aid in the speed of cooking of the dish.
- To add a more yellow color to the rice, you can drizzle the achiote oil onto the rice. If achiote oil is not available, you can use Tumeric instead.
- It has become my experience that every time I use the water to rice ratio of 2:1, it rarely turns out. I always end up with rice that is oversaturated with water or overcooked. The only times that it has worked for me have been while cooking pounds of rice at commercial kitchens, but at home, I and as of late, I use a different ratio. For every cup of rice, I use 1 ¼ cups of liquid, and I have been able to yield grainy fluffy rice consistently. As for short-grain rice, I keep finding in my research that for one cup of rice, use one cup of liquid.