Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arroz con Pollo

Och tamale! no wait, that's the Univ of Redlands chant! Happy Cinco de Mayo instead.

It's almost Cinco de Mayo and that's reason enough to enjoy a Mexican dinner - as though we need a reason! May 5 is usually an excuse to host a party, but not this year. The boat will be in a shed on dry land, and I'll be cooking in a motel's small kitchenette. We enjoy so many Mexican, Tex-Mex and SouthWest dishes that it's difficult to choose just a few for our dinner for two.  

It's been a long time since I've made Arroz con Pollo, and a SeriousEats post about rice brought it to mind. I know we'll welcome the leftovers for quick lunches of burritos, quesadillas and the like, so it's a good choice for several reasons. With MexiCorn Salad and braised kale as sides, it will look like a fiesta on a plate.

Note: brace yourself for way too many photos in this post. I got a little carried away... but I've recovered. 

Arroz con Pollo     
Loosely adapted from Real Kitchen, Tyler Florence
Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 30 minutes              Cook time: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients, grouped by process
1 3-lb fryer, cut into 10 serving pieces (I used 8 thighs)
4 TBS olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ TBS dried oregano
2 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper (I substituted Chipotle Tabasco sauce)
1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 LB dried chorizo sausage, cut into 1-inch chunks (or another hot link sausage or  linguica)

1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced (roasted is good)
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced (roasted is good)
2 bay leaves

2 cups long grain white rice
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with liquid
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warmed 
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, halved

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, rough chopped
¼ cup blanched almond slices, toasted
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Rinse the chicken pieces and dry thoroughly. Skin left on is tastier, skinless is healthier - you choose. In a small bowl, combine 2 TB oil, salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, cayenne and cinnamon. Rub each chicken piece with the spicy paste and chill, covered, for at least 20 minutes to develop the flavor.
It's definitely messy, but worth it!

2. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven with lid, heat the remaining 2 TB oil over medium-high heat. Fry the chorizo until it is brown and crispy and renders its fat. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

3. In 2 batches (so it doesn't crowd), place the chicken in the pan skin side down and cook until it is browned and moves easily. Turn it over and brown the other side, about 10 minutes total. Remove from the pan and set aside. At this point I remove all but a tablespoon or two of any fat in the pan.

4. In the same Dutch oven, saute the onion, garlic, peppers and bay leaves; cook until the vegetables are very soft, but not dissolved. 

5. Stir in the rice so the grains are well coated. Add the tomatoes and broth, season with salt and pepper.(I skip the salt since the sausage and tomatoes are fairly salty ingredients.)

6. Return the chorizo and then the chicken to the pan. 

7. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for a minute or two. 

8. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 min or until chicken is done and the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid.

9. Scatter the olives on top just before serving. Plate with cilantro and olives on top, lime wedges alongside.
10. Open the beer or pour the wine and enjoy. Ole!
Note 1: There are always leftovers! The rice and meats make excellent fillings for stuffed peppers, burritos, quesadillas, tacos, or even omelets or savory crepes. 

Note 2: Next time I'll recreate these disassembled, cooking the chicken separately for a crispier finish, to get a toothier bite on the rice. One-pot Arroz con Pollo is good, but using a pot and a grill pan might be even better. Any thoughts on this?

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