Spain vs. Puerto Rico
The origins of Arroz con Pollo have been lost to the mists of time. Like Baklava, many cultures have laid claim upon it. There is some debate as to whether it originated in Spain or Puerto Rico. It has since then expanded to other Spanish colonies such as Columbia, Cuba, Mexico, and the Philippines among others. In Spain the distinctive yellow color comes from the addition of saffron and white wine. Since saffron was expensive and not readily available in Puerto Rico during colonial days, they utilized what was available to them. Annatto seeds were often made into annatto oil which gives their version of Arroz con Pollo the distinctive color and taste when combined with beer.
Both cultures use another key ingredient sofrito. Sofrito is of Spanish and Portuguese origin and is simply a combination of garlic, peppers, onions and tomato cooked in olive oil.
In Spain, Arroz con Pollo is more like paella, where white wine and saffron can be used instead of the annatto and beer. The recipe here is very basic and you can decide which version you wish to try first-the Puerto Rican or the Spanish version. I would suggest that you make this dish several times and see which one you prefer. Arroz con Pollo is a delicious dish that is easy and inexpensive to make.
Traditional Arroz con Pollo
- 4 large chicken thighs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp adobo seasoning
- 1/2 whole onion, chopped
- 1 whole green pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 whole red pepper, seeded and diced
- 4 clove garlic, minced or sliced
- 2 whole bay leaf (optional)
- 1/2 cup white wine to deglaze
- 1/3 cup green olive, quartered
- 1/4 cup pimento, diced or sliced
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 2 pkts Sazon seasoning
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cup chicken or ham stock
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1/3 cup ham, diced (optional)
- 1/3 cup link sausage (optional)
- 1/2 cup green peas (optional)
- In a heavy dutch oven style pot, add the oil and bring up to temperature just to smoking point.
- Pat down the chicken thighs with a paper towel and season well, all over with the adobo seasoning.
- Add the chicken to the prepared and hot pot. Cook the chicken first with the skin side down over medium to medium-high heat. Cook the chicken thoroughly to render out all of the fat. You can try the technique in the images above to crisp up the sides of the chicken skin. Turn the chicken and cook on both sides. Be sure to turn the chicken more frequently at the end to be sure it is cooked through. The internal temperature should be 155-160 degrees, as read with an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the chicken to a separate container, and add the onion, peppers and garlic. Cook the vegetables until soft and add the wine to deglaze the pan. There maybe a few browned bits (not black) on the bottom of the pan (these are called the fond or base). This is a good thing because it is where the best flavors develop. Deglazing will allow the brown bits to be released from the bottom of the pan and incorporated into the dish.
- With juices just reduced, add the olive, pimento, rice, tomato, tomato paste, and Sazon seasoning to the pan. Next, add the rice. Allow a little time for the rice to soak up all of the juices and cook for a short time. This will also help build another layer of flavor. Once the rice has absorbed the juices, add the chicken stock to the pan. Stir to mix thoroughly and bring up to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the dish begins to boil, reduce the heat to low/medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook the rice until done using the instructions on the package of rice you are using. Usually this takes 40-45 minutes.
- At 30 to 35 minutes, check to see how much liquid is still in the pot. Since every rice is different, add more water if it is needed or let it continue to cook until all the moisture is absorbed.
- Once cooked, fluff up the rice and add the chicken back to the pot along with any accumulated juices. If desired, you can add diced ham, green peas and parsley (optional). Place the lid back on the pot with the temperature on low and heat everything through about 8-10 minutes. The dish is ready to serve or you can keep it on the back burner until you need it later.