Made to Order
Even though I’m a pretty decent Cuban cook, I still love when other people cook for me. I especially love finding an authentic Cuban restaurant, which are few and far between in my little corner of Southern California.
To me, there’s nothing better than having someone else cook up the comfort food of my youth and serve it attractively while offering me more bread and butter. (Shallow. I know.)
However, there is one Cuban dish that I will not trust to any chef in any restaurant and that is arroz con pollo. It is my very favorite Cuban dish and like many of our ethnic foods, it tastes best to me when made at home.
Not only that, but there is only one way to make it good and that means making it my way. Which is to say, using the recipe my mother passed down to me. Which is the recipe my grandmother passed down to her.
Arroz con pollo is what’s on the menu at my house for special birthday celebrations and when I want to impress company. It’s what I usually make on Christmas Day for our family meal (we eat lechón for Nochebuena, but that’s a story for another day).
This is my family recipe for arroz con pollo. Sofrito, chicken, rice, saffron blended together to create a mouth-watering-can-I-please-have-more experience.
Arroz con Pollo de Perez-Puelles
-2 to 3 lbs. chicken pieces (I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but will always include thighs and/or drumsticks with bones and skins because they help add to the flavor.)
-4 cloves of garlic (minced)
-1 large onion (diced)
-1 bell pepper (diced)
-1 small can tomato sauce
-1 jar red diced pimientos (reserve a little bit for the garnish)
-1 can sweet green peas (reserve about a third for garnish)
-1 can asparagus (cut up)
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. pepper
-2 bay leaves
-1 tsp. cumin
-1 tsp. oregano
-2 cups dry white wine
-1 cup chicken broth
-Bitter Orange Spice (Naranja Agria – powder or marinade)
-3 cups rice (long grain)
-1 tsp. Bijol or Goya Seasoning con Azafran
-3 or 4 threads of saffron – crushed (this is optional)
-1 small bottle of beer
1. Prepare the chicken broth.
2. Coat chicken pieces with bitter orange spice or marinade.
3. Press the garlic and rub over the chicken.
4. Marinate for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
5. Brown chicken in a large frying pan in olive oil – remove to a large pot (or cazuela) after they’re brown.
6. To make the sofrito: sauté onion and bell pepper in the frying pan (with the bits of garlic and olive oil) until soft, then add tomato sauce, pimientos, peas, asparagus (all with their liquid), salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, oregano, wine and broth.
7. Pour the rice into the sofrito and add the Bijol, Goya Seasoning, and/or saffron to color and flavor the rice.
8. Pour all of this over the chicken in the cazuela.
9. Bring to a boil, then lower to a fast simmer.
10. cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, then check it and stir it. Riche should be soft and liquid absorbed. If there’s still liquid or if the grain is hard, keep cooking, checking and stirring in 5 minute increments.
11. I like mine soupy, or asopado, so when the cooking is done, I pour a bottle of beer over the entire thing. It takes about 4 minutes for the liquid to absorb.
12. Pour the reserved peas and pimientos as a garnish over the finished arroz con pollo.
Do you have a cultural favorite dish that only you (or your abuela, or your Mami) can make?
Tell me. Come on, dish. ;-)
(This recipe was posted on Babalú blog with a different story.)