It's I Heart Cooking Clubs time again, and this week's theme is Potluck! As I was flipping through my Rick Bayless cookbook, trying to decide on what to make, I came across a recipe title that brought a few memories flooding back to my mind...Arroz con Pollo.
The first and funniest memory of Arroz con Pollo being this clip of I Love Lucy, in which Lucy tries to explain to her suegra (mother-in-law), who doesn't speak or understand a word of English, what they will be having for dinner.
Arroz con Pollo also reminds me of Pappy, my grandfather. He loved Arroz con Pollo! It was his idea of the perfect meal, because you could make it in one pot, and add as much or as little of anything you wanted. Pappy's recipe was constantly changing. In all the years I lived with my grandparents, I don't think Pappy ever made his Arroz con Pollo the same way twice. Sometimes he'd use chicken thighs, sometimes he'd use drumsticks, and sometimes he'd use a whole, cut-up chicken. Sometimes he'd make it soupy. Sometimes he'd make it in his trusty crockpot. And sometimes he'd even make it with enchilada sauce. The only constant with Pappy's Arroz con Pollo was that it was always delicious.
But my favorite memory of Arroz con Pollo is from back when Hubby and I were dating and only saw each other on Sundays. After church, we'd drop my grandparents off at home, then head out for our weekly lunch date. One of our favorite stops was the El Pollo Loco drive-thru, because we only had a few short hours to spend together, and we didn't want to spend those precious hours in a noisy, crowded restaurant. Once our order was ready, we'd head to one of the local parks for a romantic picnic under the biggest tree we could find, where we'd eat our Pollo Bowls and stare into each other's eyes for hours. (Sigh!) Que romanticos! I remember those Sundays like it was yesterday, even though it all happened some 19 years ago.
As expected, Rick's recipe for Arroz con Pollo did not disappoint. I did make a few changes, like adding tomatoes and cumin to the mix. But what really helped bring it all together was topping it off with a little Pico de Gallo. The important thing to remember whenever making any Mexican rice dish is not to stir after adding the liquid, doing so hace que el arroz se bate which simply means it results in a soupy mess and that is not what we want.The kiddies loved it, and I'm pretty sure Hubby too was reminded of our Sunday picnics all those years ago, because as soon as he took the first bite of his Arroz con Pollo, he looked up at me from across the table and said, "You know, we really should go on a picnic soon."
Total success, if you ask me.
Arroz con Pollo y Frijoles
(Recipe adapted from Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless)
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-size pieces (1-inch cubes)
- 2-1/2 tablespoons ground chile powder, divided (Rick recommends ancho chile powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 medium onion, cut in quarters
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-1/2 to 3 cups chicken broth or water
- 1-3/4 cups of Cooked Beans, drained (You can also use a 15 oz. can of cooked beans)
- Pico de Gallo
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken; season with salt and 1-1/2 tablespoons of ground chile powder. Cook until all of the chicken is well-browned. Transfer the chicken to a heat proof-plate; set aside.
Heat an additional 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat in the same skillet the chicken was cooked in. Saute the rice until golden brown, stirring frequently. While the rice is browning, puree the onion, tomatoes, and garlic with in 2-1/2 cups of the chicken broth in a blender cup until smooth.
Carefully, pour the puree mixture over the browned rice. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of ground chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin. Season lightly with salt. Stir gently, just until everything is combined. Do NOT stir after this point! Cover skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let the rice simmer for 10 minutes.
Gently stir in the cooked chicken and beans. (I used Pinto beans, but Rick recommends using black beans.) Cover and continue to simmer until all of the liquid has been absorbed. If the rice still looks uncooked, add a splash more of water and continue to simmer until fully cooked. (Remember to resist the urge to stir!) Remove from heat. Let set for about 10 minutes before serving.
Top with Pico de Gallo or your favorite salsa and serve with warm flour tortillas. Enjoy!!!
*FYI: Arroz con Pollo also makes a great filling for burritos!