When I was growing up, I would often spend a few weeks each summer with my grandparents in Puerto Rico. While I was there visiting, my younger cousin would come and stay with me at our grandparents also. Our Abuelos were always, and still are, looking to please us and make us happy. It was pretty easy to do and it usually involved food! Candies, ice cream, fresh coconuts or piñas from the side of the road…
Whenever we would go out to eat anywhere, my cousin and I would always order rice and beans. As long as we had rice and beans, we were happy. Then I went through another phase for mofongo. Mofongo is basically smashed fried plantains, garlic, and pork rinds in a pilon (mortar and pestle) that you use as a vessel to either stuff or top with delicious meat or seafood of your choice. There are a many varieties, from skirt steak and chimichurri to shrimp in a flavorful red sauce. So you have the mofongo and whatever toppings/stuffing you choose, but you still have to get rice and beans. At least I do. *I have never made mofongo at home, but when I try it, you’ll be the first to know*
Last night’s version of rice and beans: arroz con pollo. There are so many versions of this classic dish out there, and many restaurants that claim to make it, but nothing compares to what you get on the island. First, you need the right ingredients–you can’t just use Bush’s beans for this… And like I’ve mentioned in a previous post, you need to have a good sofrito–the base to all Puerto Rican cooking.
Have I mentioned that we don’t have all our wonderful, new, fancy kitchen tools here and I can’t wait to use them? So for now a lot of my prep time involves chopping–and more chopping–lots of onions, garlic, peppers and cilantro. We usually use regular bell peppers, but last night I used these small organic peppers (not spicy!).
I haven’t cooked Puerto Rican food for my Abuela, but I think she would approve:)
Arroz con pollo: (serves 4-6)
3 small peppers, or one bell pepper
1/2 large onion
3 cloves garlic
A good handful of cilantro
Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped or chop finely by hand.
*All of these measurements are subject to how much you need or frankly how much of each ingredient you like*
Arroz con pollo:
2 lbs. Chicken thighs (I used skin on, bone in for more flavor but you can use any cut of chicken)
3 tbsp. sofrito
1/2 large onion sliced thin in rings
3 tbsp. sliced and quartered Spanish chorizo
1/2 cup Spanish manzanilla olives
2 cups white rice
1 packet of Sazon
3 1/2 cups water (or chicken broth, or a combination)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
- In a large, deep pot, coat the bottom with a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook over medium heat. Prepare chicken: rinse, pat dry, and season generously with Adobo. After about two minutes, once oil is hot, place chicken in a single layer skin side-down (or fleshy side down) and sear. Sear on both sides about 2 minutes on each side. You made need to do this in batches depending on the size of your chicken and your pot. Once seared on both sides, remove and set aside.
- In the same pan, add more olive oil if needed, it’s your call. Still over medium heat, add your sliced onions and chorizo and saute. Saute until the onions begin to turn translucent and soft, NOT brown! The chorizo will begin to color the oil bright red. At this point , after 8-10 minutes, add 3 tbsp. of your sofrito. Saute for 2 minutes more.
- Add olives then rice, and stir. Add the packet of Sazon and stir until combined.
- Add water, or chicken broth, and give it a quick stir making sure that all your ingredients are below the water’s surface. Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt.
- Still over medium heat, leave the rice alone to simmer until ALL the water has cooked out (about 15 minutes). note: as the water cooks out and you see the rice, you will see water bubble through little pockets. Once you stop seeing bubbling water, you can use your spoon to peek down on the edge to see if all the water is gone.
- Once the water is gone, give the rice a good stir to combine all the ingredients that magically floated to the top. Turn the heat down to low. Add the chicken back into the pot right on top. Cover pot and cook for about 15 minutes. note: if the pot was on too high of heat, there may be a “crust” of rice on the bottom of the pan. Don’t scrape that up and mix it in, but at the end this will be very yummy. *In Puerto Rico this burnt crust on the bottom is called pegado. It’s like a special prize if you get some!*
- Serve a good scoop of rice with a chicken thigh an cover with beans.
Beans: *beans can be prepared while waiting for water to boil out of the rice.
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 medium sized potato, diced
2 tbsp. sofrito
1/4 cup Spanish manzanilla olives
1 packet Sazon
1 can Goya pink beans, undrained
1/2 cup Goya tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
- In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add diced potatoes and saute for about 8 minutes. Be careful not to let them brown–turn down the heat if this begins to happen. Add sofrito, stir, and saute for another 2 minutes.
- Add olives and Sazon packet and stir until combined.
- Add beans, tomato sauce, and water and stir. Add a few shakes of Adobo for seasoning.
- Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Stir occasionally.
- Serve over rice and enjoy!