I’ve always known that if stranded on a desert island and forced to choose only one dish to eat for the rest of my life, it would be arroz con pollo. I understand that this is ridiculous. Obviously, with the plethora of fresh seafood available on a desert island, paella makes more sense. Nevertheless, the scenario itself is unlikely, so I allow myself to imagine an arroz con pollo eternity. With beer instead of wine, more chicken and less rice, a little burnt on the bottom, it’s always the perfect one-pot Cuban comfort meal. My choice is made. What would your desert island dish be?
Arroz con Pollo/Chicken with Saffron Rice
I’ve made this often and decided to look at all the different versions I had to pick and choose my favorite elements from each. It was too many cookbooks in the kitchen, and I was in a rush. Instead of arroz con pollo, I ended up with arroz con mango (“a mess”). Remembering that it’s meant to be an every day family dish, I tried it again but taking my time and keeping it simple.
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour orange juice (or half fresh orange juice and half lime juice)*
2 pounds skinned chicken thighs, legs and breasts
2 tablespoons vegetable canola oil
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 cups Valencia, Carnaroli or short grain rice
Additional beer, dry white wine, or broth as needed
1 cup petit pois, frozen not thawed
1/4 cup pimientos, drained and cut into strips
Using a mortar and pestle or garlic press, mash 2 garlic cloves with the pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt into a paste and combine with sour orange juice mixture. Pour over chicken pieces and marinate, cover and refrigerate for 1-3 hours, occasionally turning.
In a large shallow pan, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Let excessive marinade drip off chicken and blot with a paper towel. Reserve marinade. Working in batches, brown chicken on all sides, about 6-8minutes per batch. Set browned chicken aside.
In the meantime, heat the saffron in dry skillet for about 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.*
In the same pan, sauté the onion and peppers until soft, about 3 minutes. Add minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to cook, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved marinade, wine with saffron, chicken broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil Add chicken pieces and simmer, covered for 10 minutes over low heat.
Add the rice and continue to cook covered over low heat until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat and cover with frozen peas and pimientos. Cover and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
*I’ve been using the 50/50 option as a substitute for the pre-bottled naranja agria I’d grown up with because it can be hard to find. I did find a bottle recently and used it in my first batch only to realize that I preferred the fresh orange juice/lime option. If you find Seville oranges, it’s that much better.
**I found this suggestion for simmering the saffron beforehand in Gourmet’s version and really liked it. It infused the rice with the right golden color without the need for turmeric or annatto seeds.