Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) has to be one of the most popular comfort foods in Hispanic/Latin kitchens. Growing up in Spain I enjoyed various versions of this dish, as every family makes it a little different. In traveling around Europe and the Middle East I encountered plenty of variations to this dish, not always with chicken but very similar.
Later on in my career working in the States with the backbone of America’s kitchen force, Mexicans, Brazilians, Ecuadorians, Colombians and many other Central and South American cultures, I quickly discovered that “arroz con pollo” was a classic favorite.
It was always a treat when we would get to try Ernesto’s versions of this dish, or Jorge’s–this is how my mother makes it, they would always say.
I still make a more Spanish version of this dish, not as spicy, nor heavily seasoned, but the recipe I’m sharing with you today is a combination of those other versions, the “arroz con pollo” of the world as I melted them into one recipe. My South American friends are always happy to eat it, and of course it’s not as good as their mother’s recipe, but close enough!
- 1 small chicken (3 pounds)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 tsps. ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsps. paprika
- 1/2 tsps. cayenne pepper
- 1 red pepper
- 1 onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 chorizo sausage
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
Getting a whole chicken and breaking it down is always preferred. This way you have the whole range of flavors, dark and white meat, and all the flavor from the bones. Your butcher might also do this for you, or you might just get the breasts, or the thighs. Whatever you choose, I would recommend using “bone in” chicken.
Mix the cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper with the olive oil and rub on the chicken pieces. Let those flavors mingle with the chicken for at least 20 minutes.
Cut the chorizo sausage in half, lengthwise–I prefer to remove its casing at this point–and then into slices (half moons). Dice your red pepper, the onion, and finely mince the garlic.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and brown chicken. (This is when my dog comes around hoping I will drop some chicken on the floor.)
Remove the chicken from the pot and sweat the onion, red pepper, garlic and bay leaves in the chicken fat and oil mixture. This vegetable base is called a “sofrito.”
After the sofrito has acquired a little color, add the chorizo sausage and saute lightly. Mix in the rice and stir to coat with the sofrito. Pour in your tomatoes, the water, the chicken, and the chicken base (or 3 cups of chicken stock). Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Turn heat off and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.