Ah, arroz con pollo. A dish found in many Latin American countries, but first introduced to me via Cuban cuisine. It is a hearty, meaty, comfort-food dish that will lift you up when you’re feeling down. A bite of this is a hug to your palate and your tummy. It is pure comida cubana. I fell in love with this dish in the United States, when I went to my first Cuban restaurant. And that love deepened when I experienced it on my own trip to Cuba last year. So naturally, I needed to find a way to create this myself. Here is the result of my efforts: An Arroz con Pollo Recipe
Arroz con Pollo Recipe
Special Ingredient Alert: Bijol
Full disclosure: in order to make this dish you really need a seasoning agent called Bijol. This is annato powder, and it’s what lends the rice in arroz con pollo it’s trademark yellow hue. Generally, I try not to include things that you can’t find at the grocery store in my recipes, but unfortunately there is no substitute for this one. You can buy it on Amazon here, though.
Get the Rice Right
Arroz con pollo is similar in many ways to one of my favorite Spanish dishes, paella. Coincidentally, I also have a recipe for paella here! One of the most important things to get right with rice-based dishes is the type of rice. For this dish, short-grain Valencia rice is the authentic option. You’ll see this sometimes called bomba in grocery stores. Why is this rice important? It holds up to three times as much liquid as other types of rice. That means all those spices, chicken juice, and beer is going to pack into each grain. Which equals flavor explosion! And that’s what we’re going for here, isn’t it? If you really can’t find bomba, arborio rice is an OK substitute.
Other than these two things, just about everything else should be super easy to find at your local grocery store. Enjoy!
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 whole chicken, cut into eight pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 lb. asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 cups of Valencian Rice
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 bottle Amber beer (such as Dos Equis)
- 4 cups chicken broth, plus more if needed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
- 1 4-oz jar of pimentos, juice reserved
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp Bijol
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 bay leaf
- Heat oil in a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and cumin, then sear on the pan for about 6 minutes, or until it starts to release it's juices. Remove and set aside.
- In the same pan, sautee the onion, pepper, garlic and asparagus until they just start to soften. Add the spice mix and stir to coat vegetables. Sautee for one minute more, then add the chicken back into the pan. Stir to coat the chicken with the spice mix.
- Add in the rice and toss to coat. Allow it to toast in the spices and chicken for 1 - 2 mintues, then add half of the beer, chicken stock, and white wine. Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to boil, adding more liquid to keep the rice wet if needed. Lower heat to a simmer.
- As the rice cooks and the liquid burns off, continue adding more beer, wine, and chicken stock to keep a layer of liquid on the bottom of the skillet at all times. Incorporate the pimento juice as well.
- Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed by the rice but it is still wet.
- Stir in the pimentos and serve!
Note: you can garnish this with green olives, capers, or chopped chilies for a spicy kick!
What is your favorite Latin American dish? How did you discover it? Have you had any success replicating it at home? Let me know in the comments!