Arroz con pollo is to Hispanics what meatloaf and mashed potatoes is to Americans. It is the ultimate comfort food. What’s great about arroz con pollo is that it is healthy too. I think I can state with certainty that arroz con pollo is Latin America’s most popular dish. It is mine, for sure.
Every country in Latin America has its own special way of preparing arroz con pollo. This little fact I have learned from talking to various Spanish speaking friends. For example in Colombia, red and green pepper is used as well as diced green beans. Hondurans like to add celery to their arroz con pollo; and in Mexico they like to use corn. And then there is the Cuban way, the Puerto Rican way. You are getting the picture, right? Furthermore, it seems that every house has its own personal recipe. That’s right!! That being said, I am sharing with you the recipe I grew up with, of course with a couple of personalized twists. For starters, I use my homemade recaito (1 cube per cup of rice. Remember I freeze the recaito into ice cubes). I also use less peas than the version I grew up with, namely because I am not a great fan of peas. I can tolerate them, but only in small dosages. So I use just enough to give my arroz con pollo a punch of green. So, when friends have asked “What is the traditional way to make arroz con pollo in Panama (where I grew up)”? I always start with “Well, you see… it varies.”
By the way arroz con pollo also makes a great leftover meal. Yeah, it’s great the next day warmed up in the microwave. I often take it into work the next day and it is DELISH!!! I have also gone as far as taking it in for pot luck lunch at the office. All you need to do is make it the night before. The next morning put it in your crock pot. Put the setting on low, and it will be nice and warm by lunch time. Promise!!!
OK, so what kind of rice to use? I prefer to use long grain rice since it is more versatile than some of the other varieties (meaning the shorter grain varieties). Also long grain rice tends to be a bit fluffier when cooked. Now for the chicken… In some households, a whole roaster chicken is used. I have done this in the past especially if I am making a big amount. However, if this much planning sends you running out the back door, have no fear, just use a chicken breast. Any way you decide to do this the result will be outstanding!!
Oh, I almost forgot, I always use a rice cooker, but if you don’t own one don’t worry.
Arroz con Pollo
This is a true Latin American comfort food. My Panamanian style arroz con pollo is a very easy recipe to make with chicken breast, garlic, recaito, onions, peas and carrots. This recipe comes together very quickly if you do not have much time for a weeknight meal.
For the rice:
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 3/4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- To prepare the rice: In a sauce pan on medium heat place 3/4 Tbsp. of olive oil and rice and stir. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium, cover. Cook for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and fluff. Leave uncovered until ready to use.
- While the rice is cooking: In a small dish, mix together salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder. Sprinkle over chicken. Allow chicken to absorb the seasonings for about 1 hour. In a skillet on medium heat saute the chicken until brown on both sides. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low. Remove chicken from skillet and using a sharp knife dice on a cutting board.
- Wipe skillet clean and place 1 Tbsp. olive oil, diced shredded carrots, recaito and onion. Cook until onions are translucent. Add the chicken and toss until well blended.
- Add the rice and blend thoroughly. Add the peas right before serving.