Arroz con Pollo
(serves 5 or 6 as is, 8 with kidney beans)
In Puerto Rico, "arroz con pollo" has the staus of a national dish. But even among serious cooks, the old rules for constructing it are changing. The freshly made seasoning pastes adobo and recaito, as well as the flavor-intensive olives, capers, and pimientos,still define the dish. But without the lard and the salt pork that health-conscious modern cooks have put behind them, the proud insistence on cooking the rice in plain water is yielding to the richer flavors of chicken broth or beer. This recipe retains a little of the old, ubiquitous chopped ham as an option,but since ham is also in the kidney beans that usually accompany the dish in Puerto Rico, you might prefer to omit it from the chicken if serving both.
1 whole chicken, cut up as directed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon vinegar or freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/2teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed flat
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, cut up
4 or 5 sprigs cilantro (fresh coriander)
1 small onion
2 Italian green peppers or 1 green bell pepper,
cored and seeded
6 aji dulce chiles, if available, cored and seeded
several sprigs cilantro (fresh coriander), to taste
3 tablespoons annato oil or olive oil
1/4 cup ham or salt pork, diced (optional)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups beer (optional)
2 cups medium-grain white rice
l8pimiento-stuffed olives, cut in half
1 tablespoon capers, cut in half if large
1 roasted red pepper or 1 small jar roasted red pepper (pimiento), cut into strips
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if not serving kidney beans)
Cut the chicken, or have it cut, into 2 thighs,
2 drumsticks, 2 wings, 2 wing tips,a back piece, and 4 breast pieces. Reserve
the neck, back, and wing tips for stock.
Mix all the ingredients for the adobo and rub over the remaining pieces.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight, or let sit at room temperature 1 hour toabsorb the flavors.
Meanwhile, make the stock. Put the neck, back, and wing tips (and giblets if you like) in 4 cups of water with the garlic, onion, celery, and cilantro. Cook uncovered 2 to 3 hours, then strain out the solids and return the stock to the pot.
Coarsely chop the recaito ingredients, then process
them together in a food processor until very finely minced but not watery.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, Dutch oven,or skillet. Add diced ham or salt pork, if using, and cook 3 to5 minutes. Remove any solid fat pieces but leave the meat in the pot. Add chicken thighs and drumsticks and cook 5 minutes. Add remaining chicken pieces and cook another 10 minutes to brown all pieces on both sides.
Remove and set aside. Add the recaito and cook 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, then 3 cups hot stock (or 1 1/2 cups stock and 1 1/2 cups beer) and the rice. Bring to a boil.Return chicken to pan. Stir in the olives and capers, and some salt, if needed.. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until all the surface water dissapears (Puerto Rican cooks say to cook uncovered until the rice is dry). With a wooden stirring spoon, turn up the rice from the bottom of the pot.
Reduce heat to very low, cover the pot, and cook for 1 hour, uncovering briefly every 15 minutes to turn up the rice from the bottom of the pan.
Turn the rice and chicken onto a serving platter and garnish with the pimiento strips and the peas, if using. For a heartier and more interesting meal,skip the peas and accompany the arroz con pollo with kidney beans. Serve the beans in a separate serving bowl to be dished out on top or side, according to individual preference. Scrape up the pegao (the bottom crust, with a spatula (it will come off in pieces) and pass in a separate serving dish or scatter the pieces around the edges of the platter. It should be crisp and colored anywhere from gold to brown, but not burned.