Arroz con Pollo
There are few places that make a better version of this classic Caribbean dish than Versailles, which has been serving traditional Cuban fare to homesick expats and devoted locals for over forty years. The entrée is one of the restaurant’s most enduring, says Luly Valls, the daughter of owner Felipe Valls Jr., and it comes with a side of plátanos maduros (sweet fried plantains). The restaurant goes through so many orders of arroz con pollo that they never have leftovers, but Valls notes that when her grandmother makes the dish at home, she adds chicken broth to the crunchy bits of rice stuck to the bottom of the pan to make a delicious, warming soup.
6 to 8 servings
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces; or 4 or 5 large, bone-in chicken breasts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 2½ cups)
- 1 medium green bell pepper, coarsely chopped (about
- 1½ cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon annatto-based seasoning powder (such as Bijol or Goya)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup dry white wine, or
- 1 (12-ounce) can beer
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 cup Valencia or other short-grain rice
- 1 cup parboiled rice (converted rice)
- 3 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 8 ounces frozen and thawed or fresh sweet peas (see Note, page 34)
- 1 (4-ounce) jar pimentos, drained and diced
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium to medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and black pepper. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pot, put the chicken pieces in the pot skin-side down and sear until the skin is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Do not remove too quickly, as it will stick. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add the onion, green bell pepper, and garlic to the pot and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the seasoning powder, bay leaf, oregano, and cumin and stir to combine. Immediately add the wine, white pepper, and salt to taste; cook for 5 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add both types of rice and stir until it is fully incorporated into the tomato mixture. Add the broth and stir. Return the chicken to the pot, pouring in any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Make sure there’s at least 3 inches of space at the top of the pot, as the rice will expand while cooking. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer the covered pot, lid and all, to the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the rice is uniformly cooked. The liquid need not be fully absorbed for the rice to be ready. Remember that the liquid continues to evaporate with the residual heat, so remove the dish from the oven when it is a little soupier than you want it to be. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Decorate the top of the rice with the peas and pimentos before serving.
Note: If using frozen peas, the pot should be uncovered and the peas added in the last 5 minutes of baking.