As a young, growing, laddy I would eat copious amounts of anything, save for a few items. One of these was arroz con pollo (acp), especially “a la Chorrera”, which translates into “sweaty-sweet festering rice fermentation” (Don’t try to to look that up, it’s Cuban regional speak).
As I got older, and as has happened with so many other foods I did not care for as a boy, I really grew to appreciate acp and all it’s variations. This includes “a la chorrera” even though I still prefer “seco” which is this post’s focus.
My lovely mother in law helped me with this dish. She is a rare bird in that her cooking prowess is matched by her patience and tolerance with others in the kitchen (yes, that would be me). This makes learning easy, as long as you don’t ask for precise measurements.
We used boneless, skinless thighs and breasts which made for a bit less chicken oomph, but why pick through bones when a highly trained poultry worker at a sanitary facility has already done this for you? Also, I don’t need to tell you that you should be spending the extra dollar per pound and buying organic birds and bird parts, right?
It’s goin down:
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 minced garlic clove
1 lime’s juice
2 tsp salt
Place a cup of water and the remaining ingredients except for the chicken in a double-bagged gallon size zip top bag. Add the rinsed chicken (always rinse meats before using) to bag, toss it up a bit with a spoon and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Marinate / brine for no longer than 3 or 4 hours but at least 2, turning and rearranging a couple of times. Don’t be afraid to throw in some macerated fresh herbs like oregano or thyme or even an un-macerated rosemary sprig??
1 large chopped green/red/yellow/orange sweet pepper
1 large chopped yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 fat pinch of saffron (think dip, not leaf)
2 medium size bay leaves
1/2 cup Virgin olive oil
1/2 can tomato paste (small can)
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 cups Valencia or Arborio or some sort of risotto rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 bottle beer, imported–of course, try Lowenbrau
After the chicken has soaked long enough, take it out and dry it on and off with some paper towels. To your dutch oven that has been gathering momentum for the past 5 minutes over medium high heat, add 1/4c of the oil. Once the oil starts a-shimmerin and a-smellin, place as many chicken parts in there you can without crowding. You are trying to give the chicken some nice brown crust, so as much of it should be in contact with the pan. Brown on the other side and place browned chicken in a dish covered with foil (loosely). Repeat with remaining chicken.
Add the other 1/4c of oil and when ready, add the chopped onion and pepper, reducing the heat to medium now. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, scraping up the browned chicken bits off the pan.
Add the minced garlic and cook for another 4-5 minutes until all these veggies are nice and soft and and quite silky in their extra helping of oil (it’ll come in handy for the rice). Add the oregano, the bay leaves and the saffron and stir some more, until the saffron fragrance tapers (1-2 min). Now add the tomato paste that you mixed with a 1/2 cup of water and cook this SERIOUS sofrito down for a few minutes so as to be more pasty than watery.
Throw in the chicken and it’s juices collected in the plate, making sure to toss all this together to coat the chicken in the sofri. This goes on for another 3-4 minutes. Now, add the 2.5c of rice and toss that with the chicken and sofri for a few minutes. Finally, add the 1 cup of chicken broth and 3.5c of water (ok, 4.5c if you want it sloppy), mix and bring to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce heat to as low as possible on your range. I use a “lumisnake” because my stove’s LOW just can go that low. Now kick back for the next 20-30 minutes and get your beer. I mean, you can go ahead and pound a couple, but save one for the rice!
Your rice is cooked now and there is still some liquid in the pot amongst the rice. This is good, yes. Crack yer beer and pour that bad boy in there and don’t be all slow or careful about it either, it’s not champagne for chrissakes. Look at that sucker foam up! Now cover immediately and turn off the stove. Wait at least 10 minutes before serving. How about a crisp romaine salad with a lime vinaigrette?