Arroz con Pollo
Yield: 4 servings
Your spatulas have been warned: Achiote is the turmeric of Cuban and Latin American cuisine. Also, don’t make the mistake I did, which is grabbing the straight-up seeds of the annatto tree versus the ground version. Industrial-strength kitchen equipment is needed to grind those seeds, and I ended up with an orange-stained food processor with those full seeds taunting me. This recipe, adapted from Rudy Acosta of Rincon Criollo, is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant, akin to a Cuban version of paella. “In reality, paella comes from Spain, much like most of our items,” Acosta said. “Most of what’s called Cuban cuisine is a mixture of your Spanish descent and African.”
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 large green bell peppers, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups long-grained rice
- 6 to 8 canned whole, peeled tomatoes, quartered
- 1 1/2 cups white wine
- 1 (12-ounce) can Budweiser beer
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 to 2 tablespoons ground achiote
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup sliced roasted red peppers
1. In a large Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Generously season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In two batches to prevent overcrowding, add chicken pieces, skin side down, to the oil, and brown on each side, about 8 to 10 minutes total for each batch. Transfer both chicken batches to a plate, and reserve.
2. Begin making the sofrito by adding bell peppers and onion to the pot, still over medium-high heat. Stirring occasionally, cook the vegetables until tender and softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and rice, cooking about 1 to 2 minutes for garlic to brown. Next, add tomatoes, wine, beer, and chicken stock. Stir to combine, and then add cumin, oregano, basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add enough achiote powder, about 1 to 2 tablespoons, to get your rice a “rich yellow color,” as described by Rudy. Stir the mixture to combine.
3. Using tongs, place the chicken into one layer on top of the rice (to the best of your ability). Cover the pot with a lid, and reduce heat to low. Let cook until rice is risotto-like—Rudy said the rice should not be allowed to completely dry out; you want a few pools of liquid still at the top—and the chicken is cooked, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in peas and roasted red peppers to garnish, and let sit 5 minutes. Taste, adding additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve.
Recipe from “Queens: A Culinary Passport” by Andrea Lynn (St. Martin’s Press, 2014)