Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Arroz con Pollo

Sometimes, I just know what I want to cook for dinner. Given that that is 98% of the battle (the execution being the very easy part), my day went really well. For once, there was no struggle, no back and forth in my mind about what to make for dinner. Life is just so good when I know what I want to make for dinner. And I haven't done much cooking this summer, so this was fun.

It all started because Ann wasn't feeling well and she asked me to make something simple for dinner. I had hoped to go get some sushi but with her not feeling well, that wasn't happening. Within a second of starting to think about comfort food I had already decided to make arroz con pollo, that cousin of paella that is super comforting, super delicious, and easy to make.

Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con pollo is really easy if you break down the components: chicken, rice, stock, and sofrito. For chicken, use what you like, but I have no use for the breasts and so I use hind quarters only. Besides being cheaper, they are much more tasty. For rice, you can use what you will as well. People really try to overcomplicate it saying that only Bomba will work, or in a pinch Arborio. Phooey. I usually use Basmati because that's what we have on hand. Today, it was Jasmine. We are not making paella here, just a simple rice with chicken. Stock, sure I love to make my own stock but that wasn't an option today. A quart of commercial unsalted chicken stock worked just fine. And finally, the fourth component is the flavoring base, the sofrito.

You can by and large do whatever you want for sofrito. I know a lot of people just chop an onion and use a commercial sazón (fancy bouillion mix), but I like to make my own sofrito. I just went into the fridge and used what I had on hand: green onions, shallots (because I had no yellow onions), a long red pepper from the garden, tomatoes from the garden, garlic, part of a poblano (only part because it was really spicy), finely minced cilantro stems, cilantro leaves, and a pinch of saffron. Basically, tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro (or culantro). Quantities are not very exact. For seven thigh quarters, I used a bunch of green onions, three shallots, one red pepper (because that's all I had), a bunch of cilantro, three medium tomatoes, and about 8 large cloves of garlic. More or less of anything isn't really going to matter.

Mise en Place
After all is prepped, season the chicken on both sides and brown it on both sides, then remove it from the pan.

Brown the Chicken and Remove it
Add the sofrito ingredients and cook for a couple of minutes. I did two additions, the harder ingredients with the saffron followed by the tomatoes and cilantro leaves at the last second.

Cook the Sofrito and Add the Rice
To this, stir in the rice. For this big pan, I used two cups of rice stirred into the sofrito followed by a quart (4 cups) of stock. Two to one is a good ratio for stock to rice. I also added Kosher salt at this point, one half teaspoon per cup of rice. And then I put the chicken back in the pan.

Add the Chicken, the Stock, and Bring to a Boil
Once it came to a boil all over, I put the pan on a sheet tray (in case of boil-over in the oven), covered it in foil, and baked it at 375F for 45 minutes while we watched TV. I cover mine with foil because I want a moist dish. If I were going for crispy crust on the bottom, I would have used a touch less stock and cooked it uncovered.

Bake Until Done, About 45 Minutes
And there you go. Simple, easy, and nobody is not going back for seconds.

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