Friday, August 19, 2016

Arroz con Pollo


Rice with chicken can be found in many cuisines, though most people associate it with Spanish cooking. It's a dish that I've cooked many times, but this particular version, Latin American-style, knocked my socks off. Midway through my preparation, I began to wonder whether this more labor intensive version was worth the trouble. It is! It is! It is! I almost left out the mayonnaise-herb sauce; am I glad I didn't.

from Cook's Country magazine

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 Cubanelle pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup mayonnaise
juice of 2 lemons (about 3 1/2 tbs)
6 (5-7 oz) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 cups medium grain rice, rinsed
1 tbs (2 packets) Sazon with coriander and annatto
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup pimento stuffed green olives, halved
2 tbs capers, rinsed
2 bay leaves
optional:  1/3 cup frozen peas (I dislike peas, so I omitted them)

Adjust  oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Process cilantro, 1/2 cup onion, Cubanelle, garlic, and cumin in food processor until finely chopped. Transfer sofrito to bowl.

Process mayonnaise, 1 1/2 tbs lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tbs sofrito in now empty processor until almost smooth. Transfer this mayonnaise-herb sauce to a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken skin side down and cook without moving it until skin is crispy and golden (7-9 minutes). Flip chicken and cook until golden on that side (another 7-9 minutes). You may need to cook chicken in 2 batches depending on size of your Dutch oven. Transfer chicken to plate and discard the skin.

Remove all but 2 tbs of the fat from the pot and heat over medium until shimmering. Add remaining 1/2 cup onion and cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in rice and Sazon and cook until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.

Stir in broth, olives, capers, bay leaves, remaining sofrito, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper, scraping up brown bits. Nestle chicken into pot along with any accumulated juices and bring to a vigorous simmer.

Cover, transfer to oven, and bake for 20 minutes.

Transfer pot to wire rack and let stand covered for 15 minutes. Fluff rice with fork and stir in peas, if desired. Remove bay leaves.

Serve with mayonnaise-herb sauce and lemon slices.


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TASTE NOTES
I could have eaten much, much more than my cup of rice and 2 thighs (I'd planned on one, but couldn't resist). The brine of the capers and olives, the citric note of the lemons, and, more than anything else, the tantalizing flavors of the sofrito, made this the best arroz con pollo I've ever made or tasted. This Puerto Rican spin on a Latin American classic will remain my signature rice with chicken dish from now on. The leftovers are calling, but I must remain strong!

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