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Fantasy Island

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.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ana – Looks and sounds divine! I am going to try it for sure. I too agree that the home made combo of orange and lime is much better than the bottled naranja agria. If you notice the ingredients in that, there’s some artificial stuff…

    Hey, you know what would be a great adjunct to your site, a “print version” option to your recipes…

    Wish you could’ve been in Miami for the party. Did you see the pics I posted on facebook of the immense paella? It was very delicious too! And because I am allergic to shell fish, the chef made a smaller arroz con pollo. It was YUMMY and even more so the following day.


    9 October 2009
  2. hungrysofia #

    I noticed the same thing when I looked at the bottle:) The paella looked incredible! I wish I could have been there.

    11 October 2009
  3. Gina #

    After you remove the wine/saffron from the heat,when do you add them back in? Or do you saute the onion and peppers in the wine/saffron!
    Our chicken is maranading so we need help asap! 🙂


    9 October 2012
    • hungrysofia #

      Hi Gina, The wine/saffron goes in with the broth, marinade, tomato sauce etc and before the chicken goes in! Let me know how it works out!

      9 October 2012
      • Gina #

        Thanks for the quick response. We loved the recipe!!

        9 October 2012
  4. Pretty darn good. I found myself missing the saltiness from the green olives but still yummy.

    Missing Cuban style dishes since I moved to IL.

    20 May 2014
  5. John #

    Hi Sofia – we’re hosting a “Cuban” dinner party next weekend – and I’m wanting to make Arroz con Pollo for the entrée. I’m torn between this recipe (w/ Saffron) and the recipe you have in your Cuban Table cookbook. Any thoughts on which way I should go? I’m not sure if I want a more authentic Cuban version, a more “formal” version, or just the “tastiest” version… 🙂

    17 October 2015
    • hungrysofia #

      Hi John, They’re both authentic and really just the difference between cooks since some use saffron and some don’t. For me it depends on what you’re planning for the rest of the meal. I prefer the book version if I need to free up my stove top and vice versa. I hope it goes well! Ana

      22 October 2015

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