Caribbean Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo) Recipe

arros-con-pollo

Arroz con Pollo is a simple dish.  I’ve heard it called the “Mac and Cheese or Pot Roast” of the Latin world.  Every family has a recipe and every kid will tell you that their mother’s is the best.  I personally think my wife’s version is the best, but feel free to disagree with me.  I’m sure that if this dish is made in your family, it’s pretty good too. (But my wife’s is still better and you’ll never convince me otherwise!)

My wife’s first husband was Puerto Rican and this dish is made in the Puerto Rican style as taught to my wife from his mother.  It was my first experience with Puerto Rican cooking, but I have to say that now I’m hooked and I get my wife to make any of the foods she learned there whenever possible. (When I’m not hogging the kitchen, that is.)

The combination of chicken, rice, capers, olives and spices in this version is nothing like the Mexican Arroz con Pollo I grew up around.  for one thing, Puerto Rican cooking isn’t all that spicy heat-wise.  In fact most of their condiments are very mild.  The Mexican version will knock your socks off in some cases.  I much prefer this one and I hope you enjoy it, even if your mother’s is better. (And of course it is, it’s Mom’s!)

This recipe has been adapted to use several over-the counter sauces and bases, as we cannot get some of the ingredients called for in this part of the U.S. without ordering them online at a premium.  I’ve linked the ingredients we use to online stores where you can find them if they’re not available in your local area.

Arroz con Pollo

Ingredients:

  • 1 small chicken chicken (or 2.5 – 3 lbs lbs chicken breasts) cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 oz. salt pork, cut in 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 lb. ham steak, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 tbsp. Recaito
    (To Order: Goya Recaito, 12-Ounce Jars (Pack of 3))
  • 10 green olives (pimiento stuffed cocktail olives work perfectly)
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. achiote coloring (Sazón)
    (To order: Goya Sazon Goya Econopak, 3.52-Ounce Units (Pack of 6)
  • 3 cups white rice
  • chicken stock

Method:

Note: This dish is traditionally cooked in a pan called a caldero, which does a wonderful job, I might add.  You can purchase one here: IMUSA Caldero 3-pc. Cookware Set

Place chicken, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large zipper seal storage bag.  Massage bag to mix all ingredients and coat chicken well.  Place in the refrigerator for at least two hours to marinade.

In a caldero or a large, heavy bottomed dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.  Add salt pork and ham and brown rapidly.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low.  Add onion and recaito.  Saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 3 1/2 cups water and 1/4 cup chicken stock in a small saucepan.  Reserve.

In caldero, add olives, capers, tomato sauce, achiote coloring and 3 cups rice.  Mix over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add heated liquid from saucepan and mix well, cooking uncovered over moderate heat until rice is dry.

With a fork, turn rice from bottom to top.  Cover caldero and cook over low heat (as low as possible) for 55 minutes, turning rice again after 20 minutes.

Serve immediately.  If desired, garnish with heated pimientos and a few extra capers.

Share and Enjoy!

What we do differently every time:

The recipe as it is written produces a thick char on the bottom of the caldera that Puerto Ricans call pagau.  Pagau is considered a delicacy in Puerto Rico, but neither my wife or I much care for it, so instead of stirring the rice just once, we stir three times and then allow the rice to steam off the heat for a bit. This method does change the texture of the rice, but not the flavor, and it makes cleaning the pan a whole heck of a lot easier, too.

If making the dish for a group of Puerto Ricans, I would suggest making the recipe as written and then standing back away from the caldero.  There will be fighting over the pagau.

Links to other recipes like this:

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