Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is such a great Latin comfort dish, as Daniel mentions, pretty much every Latin country has their version, even cultures from the Middle East and Asia have similar versions, only using different spices. As I do for all pairings, I always like to break down pairings into simple component parts: originating region of cuisine, cooking technique, balance of flavors and spicing, the body of the dish, and the seasonality of the dish are all major points to consider.
So here’s my breakdown of pairing for Arroz con Pollo – Rice with Chicken:
Region: Spain and Latin America – this is a comfort food dish throughout Latin countries – each spices it a bit differently, but chicken, rice and sofrito (In Latin American cuisine, it is a sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs)
Cooking Technique: This is a true “Momma’s Dish” that every loving mother makes for her family by spreading the flavors of the chicken into the rice by browning and then stewing with the sofrito. This dish can be served right-away, or even refrigerated and served the next day.
Balance of Flavors and Spicing: The major flavor components of this dish are the browning of the chicken meat, the chorizo sausage, and the sofrito which is a flavorful tomato, onion, garlic and spices/herbs blend. I noticed Daniel in this version uses quite a bit of cumin, which adds body and smokiness to the dish as well as the chorizo which is a smoked sausage. This brings a rustic heartiness and depth to the dish, sort of a base note. Rice is pretty neutral, but using Arborio rice is an elegant addition which adds some cooking time as well as more texture to the dish.
The Body: Just mentioned, the browned chicken, the texture of Arborio Rice and the earthy/weighty flavors of smoked chorizo and the sofrito gives this dish a rich flavor. The secret is to let the flavors stay together long enough to create the harmony of this dish – that’s why it tastes even better the next day!
Other Factors: This is a comfort food dish and I think beverages that are served with comfort food work. Beer would work great, but everyday wines, particularly reds will work.
Wine Pairing Conclusion: This is the kind of dish where an inexpensive light to medium bodied red works perfectly, I’m thinking a nice Spanish Tempranillo or a rustic Grenache based wine. In a pinch, an Italian Sangiovese like Chianti would work great, but any light regional red works. The components I would pair are really the rich flavors coming from the tomato/onion/red pepper sofrito and the cumin which adds a rich gravy flavor that gives the chicken more weight and body. The melding of chicken fat and juice, smoked sausage, tomatoes and rich spices create a harmony of dish where the wine should be simple and just stand up to the flavors. For a little variation, you could also replace some of the chicken stock added to the rice with, say, a cup of wine to give the dish a little zing – I generally cook with light crisp white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, but you could use a light red as well. Drink a nice simple red wine with this dish, and follow with some Tequila Anejo or Whiskey to mellow out the wonderful pleasure of heartiness and simplicity!
Conclusion: Don’t over think this pairing, just pull a bottle from your stash and enjoy!
Consider yourself paired!
Author, “I Drink on the Job: A Refreshing Perspective on Wine” (Release date: February, 2010)