I am an idiot. Some of you are nodding your head knowingly, thankful that I finally realized what you’ve known all along. I’ll remember that the next time I have extra baked goods to share. So, why am I making such a bold statement against myself? As most everyone knows, yesterday was Cinco de Mayo, and since we had the big feast this past weekend, I wanted to make something different than the usual tacos and enchiladas. Well, when I found Bitchin’ Camero’s recipe for her Mom’s Arroz con Pollo, I thought that, not only did it look delicious, but also was the exact type of dish I was looking for.
Again, you’re wondering why I am an idiot, right? Here’s why, Arroz con Pollo, “rice with chicken”, is considered the unofficial national dish of Puerto Rico, and is widely enjoyed in Latin America and the Caribbean, but really has nothing to do with Mexico, other than the fact that they both use the Spanish language. That, my friends, is why I am an idiot.
You know what though, I couldn’t care less. From the moment the sofrito started to sauté, the most wonderful smell wafted through my house to which the scents of paprika, cumin, and, saffron were added. This was my first time working with saffron, and if you’re tempted to skip it based on the cost, I have only one word for you: Don’t. It makes the dish. You can’t identify exactly which flavor the saffron is, but know that it’s in there and making everything taste insanely delicious.
- 3 cups Arborio Rice
- 2 cups Warm Water
- Big Pinch of Saffron Threads
- 1 tsp. Annatto Powder or Sweet Paprika
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 large Yellow Onion, finely chopped
- 1 large Red or Orange Bell Pepper, finely chopped
- 2 slices dry rubbed, Center Cut Bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp Sweet Paprika
- ½ tsp Salt
- 8 oz. canned Tomato Sauce (not marinara)
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
- 1 Pilsner-style Beer
- 4 cups Chicken Stock
- Juice of 1 Lime
- 1 Tbsp Salt to taste
- Place the rice in a medium-sized bowl. Stir the saffron threads and annatto powder into the warm water, then add the water to the bowl and give it a quick stir. Set aside.
- Make the sofrito. Set a large (7.5 qt is best), heavy pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic, onions, bell pepper and bacon and cook for 5 minutes, or until the bacon fat begins to render out a bit. Stir in the cumin, sweet paprika and salt and continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the pepper is soft.
- Once the sofrito is done, add the tomato sauce and chicken to the pot, stirring to ensure the chicken is coated, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, turning the chicken over every few minutes.
- When the chicken is mostly cooked through, add the beer and chicken stock and raise the heat to high. When the pot begins to boil, add the entire contents of the bowl with the rice. This may seem like a lot of liquid, but it’ll thicken up and the final consistency will be like a very wet risotto.
- Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice, salt to taste and let the pot sit for 5 – 10 minutes, uncovered.
- Serve in deep bowls with crusty bread or crackers. You can also garnish with jarred pimentos or pimento-stuffed olives (optional).