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.

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!

Crockpot Salisbury Steak Meatballs

I think it's ironic that all the years I worked I didn't even own a crockpot. While I still don't use one more than once a month, if that, I'm always on the lookout for healthy recipes I can prepare early in the day. The advantage is that I get most of the clean up done early, I have the whole day to do whatever, and dinner is ready (and usually includes leftovers) at whatever time I choose.

I saw a recipe for these meatballs on Skinnytaste, a blog I follow whose recipes have always been reliable. I knew right off the bat that I would make these in a crockpot--not an instant pot since I don't have one--and that I would double the recipe and freeze a meal for next week. In reviewing the recipe, I also decided not to fry the meatballs, but to bake them, and to add some Mexican crema and cornstarch at the end to make a gravy as opposed to a watery au jus. I made a few other small tweaks from the original recipe.

Here follows the recipe I used with my adaptations:

2 tsp oil
1 cup minced Vidalia onion
1 lb each 93% lean ground beef and turkey
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
4 tbs tomato paste, divided
kosher salt
ground black pepper
2 tbs all purpose flour
1 tbs red wine vinegar (don't skimp; this really makes a difference in taste)
1 tbs plus 1 tsp Worcesteshire sauce
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
10-12 oz sliced mushrooms
2 1/2 cups reduced sodium beef broth
1 tbs corn starch
2 tbs crema or sour cream
chopped parsley (for garnish)

Finely chop 2 oz of the mushrooms and set aside.

In a nonstick skillet, add the oil and saute the onions until golden brown. Divide in two.

In a large bowl combine half the sauteed onions with the ground beef, ground turkey, chopped mushrooms, bread crumbs, egg, 2 tbs tomato paste, 1/2 cup beef broth, 1 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.

In a small bowl blend flour and 2 cups of broth until smooth. Mix in other half of sauteed onions, remaining 2 tbs tomato paste, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard.

Gently shape into 40 small meatballs.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake meatballs 10 minutes. Turn over and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Place meatballs in crock pot. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce over all. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Mix the cornstarch and crema with 1/3 cup of the sauce. Pour slowly back into crockpot, stir, and cook an additional 5 minutes.

Garnish with parsley and serve over rice or noodles.

Makes 8 servings (5 meatballs per serving for 6 SP)

I was pleased with this dish. I'd thought the 5 meatballs would be a skimpy serving, but with a half cup of rice and some carrots, it was quite filling. I look forward to the leftovers. I would not have enjoyed the dish without thickening the gravy. It was basically a watery beef broth until I made the slurry. It reminded me of Swedish meatballs, but the vinegar and Dijon added an extra dimension.