Musing with Max

Musing with Max

November 16, 2010

The Comfort of Chicken...

Looking for a job is no fun, especially when there aren't too many to go around so it can get a tad discouraging, even for Max
So it is just at those times when I like to turn to cooking, as is quite obvious by now. And it is also at those times when the food needs to comfort me down to my soul and take me back to when absolutely nothing was discouraging. When I was a kid and probably beyond my favorite food in the whole wide entire world was (and probably is) "Arroz con Pollo", loosely translated to chicken with rice. Cubans make Arroz con Pollo a lot and for all kinds of reasons. It is usually a big dish, so they make it for parties, they make it for Sunday dinner, they make it when the neighbors or relatives, or both, pop in just out of nowhere and completely unannounced which is very typical on a...Sunday. The ingredients are always at hand in a Cuban household since it is the fall back dish of all time; it is a one pot meal that can be easily duplicated, tripled, etc. Just throw a salad together serve it up and everybody sits around the table eating (except my brother who hates chicken) and having a good old time. If this isn't comfort I'm hard pressed to know what is, and did I say I was discouraged? Naah! Here is my version which I learned from watching my mother, and by the way just as in all regional dishes every cook has their own way...except for one thing: the rice MUST be valencia rice, which is a round chubby guy, if it can't be found then Italian arborio will do since it's a round and chubby guy too.

Arroz con Pollo a la chorrera


1 whole chicken, cut up OR 2 lbs. of pieces such as thighs & legs wings etc.
salt & pepper to taste
Adobo Goya to taste (optional)
2 tbsp to 1/4 cup of olive oil
1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
one green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 1/2 to 4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
several strands of saffron which have soaked in 1/4 cup of warm water OR 1/4 tspn Bijol which can be found in little jars at the Latin markets.
1 cup of valencia rice
salt to taste
1 cup of frozen sweet peas
1 jar of pimientos sliced OR 1 roasted red pepper, peeled and sliced (method later)

Cooking instructions:

Preheat oven to 375F
Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper and adobo if using.
Heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and brown the chicken pieces on all sides, do this in several batches so as not to crowd the pan. Add more oil if needed.
Remove the chicken pieces to a baking dish (I use a clay cazuela but that is not necessary) spreading them out in a single layer.
Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, pepper and garlic to the skillet and saute until soft.
Remove mixture to the baking dish distributing around the chicken.
Add the rice to the baking dish, distributing it evenly and season with salt.
Pour the chicken broth over the rice and chicken making sure all of the rice is covered, then add saffron or bijol and stir to distribute evenly.
Add the frozen peas distributing those evenly also.
Place in the center rack of the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken and rice are cooked through and broth has been absorbed, but not too dry.
Add the pimientos in a decorative pattern for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
I check it from time to time as it's cooking and if it looks too dry add more broth.
Serves 6 to 8

I like to roast my own peppers mainly because it's fun to watch. Place red bell peppers over an open fire on the stove until they are charred:
Remove peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool, about half hour, peel off charred skin (don't wash, the flavor goes) cut in half, remove seeds and membrane and store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container. Sometimes I add chopped garlic and a little vinegar, they last longer. This works nicely for any pepper; red, yellow, green, poblano.

There! We all feel better now.

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