Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arroz Con Pollo revisited

I made arroz con pollo for dinner last night. I've made it before so I didn't bother taking any photos but you can go here and here for reference.

I originally got the recipe from here years ago. And followed it pretty much faithfully the last few times I've made it. But after having it for dinner last night I decided that I need to make a few adjustments for the future. There are little bits about it that I could improve upon in terms of taste and technique. Like I think the chicken would do well to marinate for longer than an hour in the sauce - overnight even. So here goes.

Arroz con Pollo

The night before (or at least 3 hours before):
For chicken
3 large garlic cloves, minced (I don't have a blender so I have to do this all by hand)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (I like to have the breast pieces cut in half too) trimmed of any excess fat
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

This is on the day of, but you can prepare the vegetables or set up a mise en place:
For rice
1 1/2 - 2 cups onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 (14- to 15-oz) can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (12 fl oz)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups long-grain white rice (3/4 lb)
1 cup frozen baby peas (not thawed; 5 oz)
1/2 cup small or medium pimiento-stuffed green olives (2 oz), rinsed
1/4 cup drained chopped bottled pimientos (2 oz), rinsed

Special equipment: a wide 6- to 7-qt heavy pot (about 12 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep)
NB: I covet a Le Creuset dutch oven desperately. But since I don't have one I always make do with a heavy bottom extra-large skillet.

Prepare chicken:
Mix garlic, orange juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Put chicken pieces into the bowl and turn to coat the meat in the marinade. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled, turning occasionally, at minimum 1 hour or overnight.

Transfer chicken, letting excess marinade drip back into bowl, to paper towels, then pat dry. This part is really important. Pat them suckers dry!!! Or the sauce will burn on the pan before the chicken's got a chance to brown enough. Set aside the remaining marinade.

Heat oil and butter in pan/pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes or so with my pan. Transfer chicken as browned to a plate, reserving fat in pot.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Sauté onions, bell peppers, and garlic in fat in pot over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits from chicken, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

While vegetables cook, heat saffron in a dry small skillet over low heat, shaking skillet, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a simmer, then remove from heat.

Add cumin and salt to vegetables and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in saffron mixture, bay leaf, tomatoes (including juice), broth, half of the water, and reserved marinade and bring to a boil.

Add all chicken except breast pieces, skin sides up, and gently simmer, covered, over low heat 10 minutes. Stir in rice, then add breast pieces, skin sides up, and arrange chicken in 1 layer. Add rest of water to rinse off bits of stray rice from the chicken (this helps the rice cook uniformly). Return to a simmer.

Cover pot tightly, then transfer to oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set back on stove top at medium-low heat until the rice cooks through.

Scatter peas, olives, and pimientos over rice and chicken (do not stir) and let stand, pot covered with a kitchen towel, until peas are heated through and any remaining liquid is absorbed by rice, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Serve with beans or steamed greens to round out the meal.

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