I have eaten many wonderful versions of paella in my lifetime – those that others have made and paella that I have made. It was a favorite dish from my mother’s repertoire. But sometimes I want something just as good but a bit simpler – no seafood and no sausage. I turn to Arroz Con Pollo or Chicken with Rice. This is a dish that can easily be made for a weeknight dinner and the only exotic ingredient is saffron. Most everything else you would have in your pantry or could easily pick up at most grocery stores or a good bodega. When you think you have just about had as much chicken as you can stand, give this wonderful dish a try. To turn any weeknight special, serve this with a hearty Spanish red wine. It just might renew your love for that old clucker!
Arroz Con Pollo
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
4 chicken thighs, bone-in but skin removed (This is easily accomplished using paper towels to grab off the skin in one good pull.)
4 to 5 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
About 3 to 4 Tablespoons of EVOO
1 Spanish onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large Cubanelle pepper cut into large dice (If you cannot find this dark pepper you can use a banana pepper)
8 to 10 large green olives stuffed with pimento
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
About 2.5 cups of chicken broth or water
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 roasted red pepper from a jar, rinsed and thinly sliced into strips
- In a large heavy skillet with straight sides and a tight-fitting lid (I like my cast iron Lodge pan) that will hold all of the chicken pieces in one layer, heat the EVOO until it just begins to ripple but not smoke.
- Generously salt and pepper the chicken pieces and brown them in the oil on all sides (about 8 minutes). Remove the chicken to a platter and keep nearby.
- Add the chopped Cubanelle pepper and the onion to the pan, adding more oil if necessary, stirring to soften. Add the cumin and cloves and the olives and some additional salt. (Remember that the olives have salt so go easy.) Once everything has begun to soften and the spices are giving off a lovely aroma, add the rice, tomato paste and the crumbled saffron, mixing well. You want all of the grains of rice to be coated with the oil and seasonings.
- Pour in enough liquid (stock or water) to cover the rice by a couple of inches. Add 1/2 of the chopped cilantro and mix through. Bring everything to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling rapidly, add back the chicken pieces, coating them in the liquid which has taken on the color of saffron. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes and then gently stir through the defrosted peas and garnish with the strips of red pepper. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes with the heat turned off. This will be enough to heat through the peas and red pepper without over-cooking them. Garnish with the remaining chopped cilantro.