Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Weeknight Dinner: Easy Arroz Con Pollo

A while back I posted about this great recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem: cardamom-spiced rice with blackened chicken thighs and caramelized onions. It's delicious and the recipe is available via the New York Times online. If you haven't yet, you should probably make it.

If you have made it, or if you're not keen on buying whole spices or caramelizing onions but you're intrigued by the method Ottolenghi recommends for what I consider to be the ultimate comfort food - chicken and rice - try this one instead. The only spice you need is some good quality chili powder. Probably the same one you'd use in the chili you make for your company's annual chili cook-off. Or if you consistently don't win at your company's annual chili cook-off, I'm sorry, and maybe upgrade to this one, from Penzey's. At any rate, try to find a salt-free one. This allows you more control of the flavor (and saltiness) of your food.

Easy Arroz Con Pollo is featured in the new Quick Weeknight Meals class I'm offering this fall and winter at Local D'Lish. It's QWM #2 - all one-pot meals. This recipe is listed with a caveat: it's not as quick as the other recipes I share in my QWM classes. However! Forty of the fiftyish minutes it takes to make this are basically inactive, so you could help your daughter with homework or go shovel some snow while this dinner is basically making itself. Then you'd be basically living the dream. Right?

Special picture for you: the mysterious steaming process.


The last cooking step involves steaming the rice with a clean dry kitchen towel. (I've found that pretty much any kind of towel works, just avoid something that's going to leave terry pills in your food. Tea towels or flour sacks are ideal.) Is this essential? If you want perfectly cooked, perfectly dry, discreet grains of rice alongside your chicken, then yes. The steaming time allows the towel, rather than the rice, to absorb any remaining moisture, eliminating any potential for mush.

Arroz con pollo collageplated arroz con pollo

Finally: (1) The lime juice is important. Don't skip it. Acid enhances a savory dish like this big time. (2) FAQ: Do you have to use bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces? My Answer: If you want all the flavor that bones and skins afford this dish as they cook and steadily infuse the rice and vegetables with their juicy deliciousness, HECK YES. But. Because I love you and I know you're all afraid of bones and skins (even though that's where the flavor is! this is CHICKEN, folks!), I'm working on a version with boneless, skinless chicken pieces. Stay tuned. In the meantime: you don't have to eat the skin. I don't; MC does.

Arroz Con Pollo
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons oil, divided
2 – 2 ½ lbs skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (or 1 whole chicken, quartered) 
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped (or - as in pictures above - a few tomatillos, chopped up a bit)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup frozen peas (optional, but nice)*
1 2/3 cups white basmati rice
2 ¼ cups boiling water
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh cilantro, sour cream, sliced avocado, and/or salsa, to serve

Using kitchen shears, cut off any large pieces of fat from the chicken. You want enough skin to cover one side of each piece, but you don't need more than that.

In a large bowl, toss the chicken thighs with the chili powder, 1½ teaspoons salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Heat skillet/frying pan over medium heat; add remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sear spiced chicken in frying pan for 5 minutes on each side. (You can chop your vegetables while chicken is par-cooking.) Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Bring 2 ½ cups water to boil in a kettle or small saucepan. (You’ll only need 2 ¼ cups, but you might lose a little in the boiling process, so boil more than you need.)

Add onion, carrot, red pepper, garlic, frozen peas (or beans - see note below), and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to pan. Sauté for 5 minutes over medium heat, then add rice. Stir everything for another minute. Place seared chicken thighs on top of rice mixture. Pour 2 1/4 cups boiling water over top. Cover pan, reduce heat to very low, and cook for 30 minutes. Turn off heat (don't forget to do this! I don't want your towel to start a kitchen fire!) and move pan away from burner. Remove cover from pan, quickly place kitchen towel on top of pan, and reseal with lid. Allow to steam for 10 minutes. Remove lid and towel; squeeze juice from half a lime on top of dish. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve topped with fresh cilantro and whatever else you'd like.

This keeps well for a few days in refrigerator and gets even more flavorful reheated on days 2 and 3.

* Could substitute a 12.5-oz can of black beans for peas, rinsed and drained well.


  1. I am making this tonight, finallY!

    1. Let me know how your family likes it! Also - thank you for all the comment love. It has dramatically brightened my cold week.