Every time I think about making a chicken dish, my preparations are interrupted by the view from my kitchen windows. I find myself watching the chickens in my backdoor neighbor’s yard. From my perspective, my neighbors are living the American Dream. They have five acres of land plunked down in the middle of a fairly average American middle-class neighborhood. The couple has one little girl and a second baby on the way. They are both educated; the husband works full time at his job and the wife works part time a few evenings a week at a local college. The rest of their time is spent having a little farm in the big city complete with fruit trees, a garden, several horses, a pasture for the happiest free-range chickens that I have ever seen (and a few turkeys), and of course the requisite dog and cat.
I love it when I look out back and the couple’s little girl is walking around the pasture holding a chicken. The chickens are raised to be gentle, so they don’t mind being toted around the yard by a three year old. It’s a perfectly pastoral scene and I feel both joy and peace watching the moments unfold.
There is always a bit of irony as I look between the happy chickens running around outside and the chicken pieces lying waiting for preparation in my kitchen sink. My neighbors are wise with their chickens. Not only do the chickens provide entertainment and companionship for them, they also provide eggs and, when the time is right, they provide food for the family. It’s the natural order of things.
I have thought of raising a few chickens of my own, but I’m afraid that my chickens would be really depressed when they saw how the neighbor’s chickens got to live. True, I really think that way. For now, I’ll content myself with preparing tasty chicken dishes for the fam.
As I read a large number of recipes and information about arroz con pollo (Spanish chicken and rice), I found that this dish can be quite varied in ingredients. Arroz con pollo originated in Spain, which I was surprised to learn. I had always thought that it was a Hispanic dish, which explains my confusion as I read the ingredients in various recipes. Once I learned the history of arroz con pollo, everything fell into place.
There seems to be no right or wrong way to make this dish. It is regional as well as intercontinental. I thought about everything that I had learned and decided to make up my own version of arroz con pollo. Please understand that I am not being snobby when I say that this was surprisingly delicious. Addictively delicious actually. I had fun making something different from the types of food with which I tend to stick, combining flavors which I have not combined previously. The number one ingredient that threw me just a little bit was the pimiento stuffed green olives. I like green olives, but I haven’t ever used them in a casserole. What a great secret ingredient!
Arroz Con Pollo
For the Chicken
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder or granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6 chicken thighs bone in, skin on
- flour for dredging chicken
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For the Rice
- 2 cups rice
- 1 large poblano pepper seeded and diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups peeled and seeded diced fresh tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric or a pinch of saffron threads
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 chopped pimento-stuffed green Spanish olives
- cilantro optional for seasoning or garnish
- lime wedges optional to squeeze over rice and chicken for added flavor
- Rinse chicken pieces under cool water, removing extra fat and any extra skin. Don’t remove the skin completely, simply trim off any extra skin. Set chicken aside and pat dry.
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat.
- While the oil is heating, in a small bowl mix together the salt, onion powder or granulated onion, garlic powder or granulated garlic, paprika, cumin, and black pepper. Sprinkle seasoning on both sides of chicken. You probably will not need all of the seasoning, so save the rest for another time.
- Dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour, then place in the frying pan to brown. Turn chicken over once during the browning process. This process is only for browning the chicken. The chicken will finish cooking with the rice. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
- With heat on medium or medium-low, add the rice to the oil in the pan. Cook and stir rice for about five minutes. Add the poblano, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring as needed until the onions are tender.
- Add the diced tomatoes and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes to release some of the juices from the tomatoes.
- Pour the chicken stock into the rice mixture. Add the salt, ground cumin, turmeric or saffron threads, red pepper flakes, and chopped pimento-stuffed green Spanish olives. Stir gently to combine all of the ingredients.
- Place chicken pieces evenly over the rice mixture. Put a lid on the pan, cover and bring to a low simmer. Cook over low heat until the rice is done and the chicken has cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. If it looks as though the stock will be all used up before either the rice or the chicken has completed cooking, add a bit more liquid. Water or stock will be fine, maybe about 1/2 cup. When the chicken is done, the juices from the chicken should run clear and the internal temperature of the chicken should be 165-degrees F.
- If desired, cilantro can be minced and stirred into the rice prior to serving (amount per personal preference), or can be used as a garnish. Lime wedges can be served on the side and the juice squeezed over the rice and chicken for added flavor.
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