The last time I made this dish, was 5 years ago. 5 YEARS AGO?!? Why the heck has it taken me so long to make it again? As a child, this was the staple dish for large gatherings with my mum’s side of the family. Really, what can be simpler, a crowd pleasing dish, that is full of protein, veggies, and best of all, flavor.
There a many variations of Arroz con Pollo, every family has their own recipe, and many latin american cultures have their methods too. For example, the cuban variety uses the chicken on the bone, and the rice is a little soupier, almost like an Arroz Caldoso, or soupy rice.
My version is probably influenced by my Italian grandfather, with the addition of olives and capers. Either way, it is awesome. It’s a dish that has a few steps, but totally worth it, because it’s a whole meal on a plate. My daughter loves it, and always has, it was a great way for me to sneak it some vegetables that she would never normally eat. As I said, there are many, many variations. I like to use annatto seed, or as some call it, achiote. This is a small red seed, and it is used for food coloring, much like saffron but with a nuttier taste. In some countries, like Mexico, they grind the outer layer into a paste, but in Colombia you boil the seeds in oil or water until it releases its natural color. The longer you boil, the deeper the hue you get, so it can turn your oil from yellow to deep red. Then you discard the seeds and use the oil in your food.
I also like to use cabbage, well, because I love cabbage. Then I add some raisins, because I love having every other bite give you a surprise of sweetness amid the saltiness of the olives and capers.
This dish is very heartwarming, and tastes of home and family to me. I hope you take the time and make it so you and your family and friends can savour the tastes of Colombia!
So here’s what you’re gonna need:
For your basic white rice:
1/4 onion, finely minced
1/4 green pepper, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups long grain white rice
4 cups water
2 tsp salt
For the braised chicken:
1/4 cup annatto seeds
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 small green peppers, chopped
4 small tomatoes, chopped
4 scallions, sliced and set in a bowl of water to wash, then drained
1 heaping tbsp of cumin powder
2 tsp of salt, more to taste
1 packet of Sazon Tropical
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 chicken, cut in pieces, skinned
1 1/2 cups of cabbage, chopped, plus one large leaf to “cover the pot”
1 handful of green beans, chopped
2 tbsp of pimento stuffed green olives, sliced
3 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 cup water, or more to cover and braise the chicken
First, make your basic white rice. In a medium heavy bottomed pot, add the vegetable oil, minced onion, green pepper and garlic over medium low heat. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and fragrant. Wash your rice, and strain. Add the rice, and then the four cups of water and the salt, and raise the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil, covered. When the rice boils, lower the heat to medium low again, and leave the rice partially covered. When the water is almost all evaporated, about 15 minutes, with a large wooden spoon, “turn” your rice, which basically means to flip the rice with the spoon so the bottom layer goes to the top and vice versa, and let it dry out, another 10 minutes. Switch off the heat, and leave to further dry out, partially covered.
In the meantime, in a small saucepan, add the annatto seeds and the 1/4 cup oil and boil, for about 3-4 minutes or until the oil is a deep red hue. Take off the heat and strain the oil into a large stock pot, discard the seeds.
Heat the oil over medium heat, now you are going to make the Sofrito.
Add the onions, green pepper, tomatoes, scallions, cumin powder and salt. Saute for about 15-20 minutes, until very soft, the vegetables have released their flavors and reduced, but not browned. Add the carrot and cook another 5 minutes. Now add your chicken and brown on all sides. Add the water, sazon tropical, cabbage and bring to a boil. When it is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and “cover” it with the large cabbage leaf.
Let the chicken braise for about 15 minutes, and check to see how the breast is doing. We don’t want to over cook the breast, so check it to see if it is cooked through, and if it is, take it out and keep cooking the rest of the chicken parts. Add the green beans. After about 10 more minutes, check the legs, thighs, and wings to see if they are cooked through. If they are, remove and let cool along with the breast. Add the olives, raisins and capers at this point.
When the chicken is cool to the touch, shred it and discard the bones. Check the vegetables and see how much water has reduced. You want it to be a bit liquidy, but not so much so as when you mix it with the rice it will be soupy. If the liquid has almost reduced, turn off the heat. If not, wait another 5 minutes. You want about 1/8 cup of liquid, approximately. Add the chicken back to the braising liquids, and then add your white rice and stir, so everything mixes up together and it is all beautifully colored a vibrant yellow. Turn the heat down to low, and let “dry” a few more minutes, now fluffing with a fork.
You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to let it sit over night in the fridge, that way all the flavors meld. Serve with a wedge of avocado and and ice-cold beer!
From my kitchen to yours,