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Arroz con pollo (literally rice with chicken), is a traditional Latin dish. There is some debate as to whether it originated in Spain or Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans consider it one of their classic recipes. However, a good argument can be made that its underpinnings lie in the Moorish influences on Spanish cuisine dating as far back as the 8th century. Whatever its provenance, it is a hearty and robustly flavored dish enjoyed in Spain and throughout Latin America. As expected, recipes vary greatly from country to country and chef to chef. Below is my recipe for arroz con pollo but before we start cooking, let’s discuss some of the ingredients.
The dish’s flavor is boosted with a sofrito. A sofrito is basically a sauce made from diced or pureed aromatic vegetables and seasonings and usually cooked in oil. The specific ingredients and procedures for making it are as varied as arroz con pollo. Tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, achiote, cilantro, culantro, oregano, cumin, vinegar, and pork products are all common ingredients. Sofrito can be used to enhance a wide variety of dishes such as soups, stews, casseroles, braised dishes, and sauces. Culantro, often used in Puerto Rican sofritos is an herb native to Mexico and South America. It is pungent and similar to cilantro. Look for it in Spanish supermarkets.
Achiote, also called annatto, are the seeds of the annatto tree. They are used to make achiote oil, (as in my recipe below), and impart a unique flavor and yellow color to the target dish. Achiote can also be ground and added to dishes like any other spice.
I use Goya® adobo in my recipe which is basically a garlic salt. Goya markets a number of varieties. I like the one augmented by oregano and black pepper. Most supermarkets carry it but you can always substitute basic garlic salt.
I also use a seemingly strange combination of Chorizo, (a Latin sausage) and Italian sausage. I like the conjunction of the two but if you wish to keep the dish more authentic simply use only the Chorizo. A trick for dicing sausage is to partially freeze it first.
Bell peppers can be substituted for the poblanos. Finally, if you are not a fan of heat, you can substitute additional bell or poblano pepper for the jalapenos.
For the sofrito:
• 1 large tomato
• 1 small or half a large poblano pepper
• 1 small jalapeno
• Half of a small onion
• 2 garlic cloves
• 1 small batch cilantro and/or culantro
Coarsely chop the tomato, peppers and onion. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and pulse to a rough puree.
For the chicken and rice:
• 1 tablespoon achiote (annatto) seeds
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 chicken thighs, skin on
• Goya adobo, or garlic salt, as needed
• Ground black pepper, as needed
• 1 link chorizo sausage, diced
• 1 link Italian sausage, diced
• 1 batch scallions, greens and whites separated, chopped
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 1 small poblano pepper, chopped
• 1 small jalapeno, chopped
• Goya adobo, or garlic salt, as needed
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 6 oz. dry white wine
• 2 cups long grain rice
• 1 (14.5-oz.) can chicken broth
• Sofrito from above recipe
• 1 tablespoon paprika
• 1 small batch cilantro, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the achiote seeds and oil in a heavy Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot. Heat the seeds and oil over low to medium heat until the seeds gently sizzle and release their color. This only takes a couple of minutes. Stop cooking before the seeds turn black. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the seeds with a slotted spoon and discard.
Generously sprinkle the chicken thighs with the adobo and black pepper. Return the pot to the stove and heat the oil. Sear the chicken thighs, skin side first, in the oil on both sides. Remove the chicken and reserve.
Add the sausage and cook until browned. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and reserve.
Add the white parts of the scallions, shallot, poblano and jalapeno pepper to the pot and sauté. Sprinkle in some adobo and/or salt, and black pepper to taste. Remember the adobo already has salt in it. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Deglaze the pot with the white wine, scraping all the browned bits off the bottom. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated.
Add the rice and cook for a minute or two. Return the chicken and sausage to the pot. Add the chicken broth, sofrito and paprika. Cover and bring to a boil and then place the pot in the oven for 20 minutes.
Just before serving add the green parts of the scallions and the cilantro.
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