My maternal grandfather, who passed away before I was born, was known in his hometown of Maximo Gomez, in the province of Matanzas, for his culinary prowess. He perfected the art of Cuban cuisine working as a cook in small area restaurants. His repertoire in the kitchen was extensive. Among the many dishes that he learned to expertly prepare, one, in particular, stood out: chicken and yellow rice or arroz con pollo, in Spanish. Friends and family alike sought him out to prepare this renowned dish for them on special occasions. My grandfather always required only two pieces of information: number of guests and serving time. Arroz con pollo, he insisted, had to be eaten as soon as it was ready. When you prepare arroz con pollo according to this recipe, it will be as though my grandfather were cooking for you and your guests. Bon appétit!
2 ¼ cups of long grain white rice (serves 4 – 6)
1 skinless chicken breast
1 package of 5 drumsticks (1.6 lbs)
a small bottle of yellow coloring
7 oz can of whole red pimientos
8 oz can of roasted garlic flavor tomato sauce
McCormick Original chicken seasoning for added flavor
coarse kosher salt
Golden cooking wine
3 – 4 garlic cloves, depending on size of cloves
8 ½ oz can of sweet peas
Cooking instructions: Part I
Place the rice in a container and wash thoroughly with water. Discard all the water.
Add ¼ tsp of yellow coloring to the rice and sir until rice turns yellow. Set rice aside for now.
Cut 1 skinless breast into several chunks. Remove leftover skin, if necessary.
Rinse chicken breast chunks and drumsticks with water, and place them in a container for seasoning.
Add salt to taste.
Add ¼ tsp of ground cumin.
Sprinkle McCormick Original chicken seasoning over the chicken.
Pour 4 oz of Golden cooking wine over the chicken.
Seasoned chicken breast and drumsticks.
Set chicken aside.
Preparation of sofrito (seasoning):
With a kitchen hammer, slightly crush garlic cloves to peel and release the flavor.
Dice the onion.
Sofrito requires 5 oz of whole red pimientos. Include some of the pimiento juice.
Sofrito or seasoning ingredients.
Mince red pimientos in your chopper.
Add 4 tbs of tomato sauce to the sofrito and sauté for several minutes.
Add minced pimientos to the seasoning and sauté.
Sprinkle ¼ tsp of ground cumin on the seasoning and sauté.
Seasoning or sofrito for the chicken and yellow rice.
Cooking instructions: Part II
Take the container with the chicken and pour the cooking wine into a separate container.
Place the chicken in the large pot with the seasoning, and cook chicken at medium heat for 10 minutes or so to allow the chicken to soak in the seasoning. Stir occasionally.
Chicken cooks in seasoning for 10 minutes.
Use a knife with a sharp point to poke small holes into the chicken, so that it absorbs the seasoning better.
After a couple of minutes or so, pour the cooking wine over the chicken and continue cooking.
After 10 minutes, pour 3 cups of water into the pot with the chicken, and do a salt test.
Bring the contents of the pot to a slow boil.
Seasoned chicken after water is added.
Transfer contents of pot to your pressure cooker (PC).
Place cover on PC. Allow to come to a boil. Pressure cooker regulator will alert.
Lower heat about half way and continue cooking for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, turn heat off and allow pressure cooker to cool down. Caution: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to remove the cover while the pressure cooker is still hot. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.
Before removing the cover, place the PC under cold running water to hasten the cooling down process. Touch the pressure regulator slightly to make sure all the pressure has been released.
Take the cover off the PC. Chicken should be tender.
Chicken after 15 minutes in the pressure cooker.
Transfer the contents of the PC back to the large pot. Perform a taste test. Sprinkle additional chicken seasoning, if necessary.
Remove about ½ a cup or so of the liquid from the pot and set it aside. Note: The reason some of the liquid is removed is that you do not want the finished chicken and yellow rice to be too watery; you are not making chicken and yellow rice ‘a la chorrera’, a variation of this dish, which some folks prefer, but I do not.
Add the yellow rice to the pot with the chicken, and stir.
Yellow rice and chicken just after the rice is added.
Bring contents of the pot to a slow boil, cover the pot, and let arroz con pollo simmer for 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
After 10 minutes, stir the rice, and taste it.
If the grains of rice are still hard and the rice is drying too quickly, add back the liquid that you removed earlier. This is an excellent opportunity to add more salt to the rice, if necessary. Just dissolve the salt into the liquid before you add it to the rice. Reduce the heat as necessary and continue cooking chicken and yellow rice slowly for the remainder of the time or until rice is tender.
Serve arroz con pollo immediately after it is done. Garnish it with peas and pimientos.
Arroz con pollo garnished with peas and pimientos.
Best Cuban ‘Arroz con Pollo’ Recipe/ Arnoldo Varona, Editor