Arroz con Pollo (ah-ROS cohn POH-yoh) is such a delicious and hearty meal, full of flavors and veggies – and chicken of course. Growing up, my memories of eating Arroz con Pollo were at my friends’ “Matinés” (pronounced matinées), the Ecuadorean equivalent of kids’ birthday parties which happened during the day. I also remember I haaated Arroz con Pollo because it had zanahorias (sah-nah-OH-ree-ahs), a.k.a carrots – I picked them out and threw them in trash can making sure no one saw me. Sneaky, sneaky! By the way, I don’t do that anymore.
Arroz con pollo is a fairly inexpensive meal to make, and yields sooooo much that I can now understand why it is so popular at large gatherings. There are many ways of making and flavoring arroz con pollo – each family basically has their own way. The way I will show you is the one I was most familiar with, but feel free to add more veggies or take out and substitute for others. For instance, I like to use green olives and capers (alcaparras in Spanish) for a little tartness; I’ve had arroz con pollo with corn kernels, which combined with the carrots, gives a bit of a sweeter flavor.
When making Arroz con Pollo, I like to use thighs or chicken breasts (or both), bone-in and skin-on, trimming the excess skin and fatty parts you find especially on the thighs. The skin helps keep the chicken flavorful and moist. So, towards the end of the cooking process, – when the rice is almost done – you will remove the chicken from the pot, discard the skin, shred the chicken, and put it back in the pot. If you start seeing that the rice is drying out too much too soon, feel free to add a little bit more water to keep cooking. Serve with sweet plaintains, a simple tomate and lettuce salad, or even top it with a fried egg. Oh, and the best part of this dish – it is a ONE pot meal. Enjoy!
Arroz con Pollo
Makes 6-8 servings
5 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (2-2.5 lbs), trimmed of excess skin and fat
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbps achiote-infused oil, OR regular olive oil + 1-2 tbsp paprika
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups of water
salt and pepper
3 cups of long-grain white rice
1 green pepper, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
1 tbps capers, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Season the chicken with the lemon juice and the alino making sure you get under the skin and in between the bones. Set aside to marinade for 15 minutes.
In a food processor, process the tomato, onion and pepper. You may also choose to finely chop all these ingredients, which will be used to make the refrito.
In a large dutch oven on medium-high, heat the achiote-infused oil, and brown the chicken, starting with the skin-side down for 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, and sautee the refrito (onion, pepper, tomato) for about 10-15 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Sautee until the vegetables are soft. Taste for flavor, and add some salt and pepper.
Add the chicken back in the pot. Add the water, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes; stir to combine. Bring the pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
Add the rice, the diced green pepper and carrots, olives, capers and 3/4 tsp salt. Stir to mix all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook at medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. If you notice that it is drying up and the rice is not done yet, add a little bit more water – 1/4 cup – stir and continue to simmer.
After 15 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot. Remove the skin and shred the chicken, pulling it off the bones, using 2 forks. I like to have bigger chicken pieces as opposed to thin shreds, like what you get in a pulled pork sandwich. Return all the shredded chicken back in the pot, add the frozen peas and the chopped cilantro and finish cooking until the rice is done. Check for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warm.