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Chicken with rice

The classic combination is loved -- and quite varied -- throughout Latin America, and beyond.

By Adam Ried
November 8, 2009

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Hearty chicken with rice -- arroz con pollo -- is comfort food in almost every Spanish-speaking nation. The dish has the same basic structure from Spain to South America to the Caribbean -- chicken and rice are stewed with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices and served as a single dish. Beyond the basics, though, spices, cooking liquids, and types of rice (medium-grain is traditional) vary depending on the country -- and on the cook, too. These are some of my versions.

Latin American-Style Chicken With Rice

Serves 4

1 chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces

3 tablespoons lime juice

Salt and black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1½ cups homemade or packaged low-sodium chicken broth

1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

½ teaspoon saffron threads

1½ cups long-grain white rice

¾ cup sliced pimento-stuffed green olives

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Sprinkle chicken with 1½ tablespoons lime juice, and generously with salt and black pepper. In a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it ripples. Place chicken pieces in pot skin side down (do not crowd pan -- brown in 2 batches, if necessary) and cook without moving them until skin is golden, about 4 minutes. Repeat on the second side, about 4 minutes longer (adjust the heat if the pot becomes too hot). Transfer chicken to a plate and, if necessary, repeat with remaining chicken. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Discard all but 2 teaspoons of the fat from the pot.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Return pot to medium heat, add the onion and bell pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and oregano, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the broth, tomatoes, and saffron, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken with accumulated juices, submerge in the liquid, return to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 15 minutes. (At this stage, remove any white-meat chicken and set aside, covered tightly with foil.) Add the rice, olives, capers, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt, stir to mix, cover pot, transfer it to the oven, and cook, stirring well every 10 minutes, until rice is tender but grains still hold their shape and the chicken is very tender and pulling away from the bone, about 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven, add the peas (and the white-meat chicken), replace the cover, and allow to rest until peas are heated through, about 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary; add the remaining lime juice and most of the parsley, stir to mix, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once with lime wedges.

Variation

Spicy Chicken with Rice with Jamaican Jerk Flavors Follow the recipe for Latin American-Style Chicken With Rice, replacing the red bell pepper with a second onion; omit the oregano and saffron and substitute 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, ¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 1½ teaspoons minced fresh habanero or Scotch bonnet chili pepper, and 1 tablespoon molasses, adding all these ingredients along with the garlic; omit the olives and capers. For the parsley, substitute 6 sliced scallions.

Louisiana-Style Chicken with Rice, a.k.a. Jambalaya

Serves 4

1 chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into 8 pieces

Salt and black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped

2 large ribs celery, chopped

¾ pound smoked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moon slices

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

1½ cups homemade or packaged low-sodium chicken broth

1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1½ cups long-grain white rice

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

4 scallions, thinly sliced

Sprinkle chicken generously with salt and black pepper. In a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it ripples. Place chicken pieces in pot skin side down (do not crowd pan -- brown the chicken in 2 batches, if necessary) and cook without moving them until skin is golden, about 4 minutes. Repeat on the second side, about 4 minutes longer (adjust the heat if the pot becomes too hot). Transfer chicken to a plate and, if necessary, repeat with remaining chicken. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Discard all but 2 teaspoons of the fat from the pot.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Return pot to medium heat, add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and sausage, and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add the broth and tomatoes, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken with accumulated juices, submerge in the liquid, return to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 15 minutes. (At this stage, remove any white-meat chicken and set aside, covered tightly with foil.) Add the rice and 1½ teaspoons salt, stir to mix, cover pot, transfer it to the oven, and cook, stirring well every 10 minutes, until rice is tender (but grains still hold their shape) and the chicken is very tender and pulling away from the bone, about 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and add the white meat, replace the cover, and allow to rest until the white meat is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper, if necessary. Add most of the parsley and scallions, stir to mix, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and scallions, and serve at once.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

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