Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Winter Pantry Arroz con Pollo

I’m using Three King’s Day (January 6) as an excuse to persuade you to make Arroz con Pollo this week.  In fact you probably have the ingredients needed on hand right now.  Arroz con Pollo is a simple chicken and rice one-pot meal that is satisfying to sophisticated palettes without turning off aspiring ones.  Here’s the basic recipe and some variations including a technique for baking this dish in the oven.

Winter Pantry Arroz con Pollo
Serves 6

6-8 portions chicken-- thighs, breasts, wings or drumsticks (skinless or not)
1-2 tablespoons flour (optional)1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peel and left whole
1 & 1/2 cups rice
4 oz water or dry white wine
1 14-oz can low-sodium chicken broth
1 14 oz can low–sodium canned tomatoes with juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup black olives, sliced (about 8 olives)
1/2 6 oz jar roasted red peppers, sliced in bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas

For this recipe, use a skillet that has a cover since the dish will cook covered once the rice is added. 

Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Combine a dash of paprika, salt and black pepper with flour.  Lightly flour the chicken pieces (skinless or not) and brown the chicken on one side.  Let the chicken get well browned by leaving it alone for a good 5 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a plate.  (Remember that the chicken is not cooked at this point so treat it accordingly.)

Reduce heat to medium low and add chopped onion.  Cook onion a few minutes until starting to soften, then add rice and garlic clove.  Stir rice to coat with pan juices (add a little extra olive oil if needed).  Keep cooking and occasionally stirring rice until most of it becomes opaque.  Now add wine if using and allow to bubble and cook down.  Next add chicken broth, tomatoes with their juice (and water if using) with oregano, paprika, salt and pepper. 

Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice, browned side up.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer rice-chicken mixture on low 30 minutes.  Add olives, red peppers and frozen peas.  Move chicken around to allow vegetables to sink into rice and liquid.  Cook another 15 minutes or until rice has fully absorbed liquid and chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165˚F).  Remove from heat, uncover and let stand 10 minutes before serving.  If you’d like, fish the whole pieces of garlic out of the rice before serving. (It’s fine to leave it in but it is also good smeared on some warm bread if it is still fairly whole and softened.)

Now that you know how simple the basic recipe is, step it up and make it Three Kings worthy by adding shrimp and cubed pork for a triple protein.  Or make a triple vegetarian version using artichokes, asparagus and green beans.  (Replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth or salted water).  You may want to experiment by adding additional herbs and spices like thyme, smoked paprika or pinch of saffron however, the pared down flavor profile with only oregano and paprika can really deliver and demonstrate to your tongue that a little can go a long way.  That’s pure cooking.

Try this baked:Preheat oven to 375˚F.Place the rice, onion, oregano, paprika, salt, red peppers slices, sliced olives and frozen peas in a lightly oiled casserole with high sides.  Stir in broth, tomatoes with juice and wine/water.  (Since the wine does not cook off at a high temperature as in the skillet version, you may prefer less wine or all water.)  Lightly flour chicken pieces and lay on top of rice mixture.  Chicken will sink in a bit.  Cut garlic clove in half and immerse halves where you can find them and remove them easily later.  (As above, it’s fine to leave the garlic in the dish, especially if served to a garlic lover in the house.  Crown the ones who find for the night.) Cover casserole with foil and bake 1 hour on the middle rack of the oven.  After 1 hour, remove the foil.  The liquid should not have been fully absorbed by the rice at this stage.  Remove casserole and check the internal temperature of the chicken pieces.  Chicken should be around 150-160˚ at this point.  Sprinkle a bit of paprika on the chicken. Increase the oven temperature to 400˚F and return casserole to the oven  (you do not need to wait for oven to come up to 400˚ fully). Bake chicken uncovered an additional 15-20 minutes, until chicken has browned slightly and at an internal temperature of 165˚, rice is tender and liquid is diminished.  Remove casserole and allow to sit about 10 minutes before serving.

What for dessert? 
A traditional dessert is the Rosca de Reyes or Three King’s Cake and not dissimilar to ones baked all over New Orleans for Mardi Gras but usually without the colored sugar.  If you can’t get our hands on one, here’s a quick cinnamon ring that can be prepped up to a day ahead and put in the oven when the main course is finished.  It will be ready in time for dessert.

Cinnamon Ring
Dry Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
3 tbsp. vegetable oil

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, from flour through cinnamon. In a pint measuring cup, measure out and mix remainder of ingredients.  At this stage, ingredients may be set aside while dinner is put together. If prepared a day ahead, store wet ingredients covered in the refrigerator and dry ingredients can be covered and set aside or placed into a re-sealable plastic bag until needed.  Take the wet ingredients out about 1/2 hour before using.

Preheat oven to 400˚F (or leave oven on once chicken and rice is removed from oven).  Butter and sugar a coffee ring pan, Bundt pan or 24 muffin cups. 

I recommend using cinnamon sugar for this step, 4 parts sugar to one part cinnamon. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cavity about halfway up. 

Bake 12-15 minutes for muffin-cakes, 20-25 for minutes for a ring.  Turn the cake onto a rack to cool before sampling. The buttered-sugared pan makes it easy for the cake to slide out.

!Que te diviertas! Have fun!