Dish of the Week: Arroz con Pollo

This simple dish can be elegant, too.
This simple dish can be elegant, too.

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're sharing a recipe for arroz con pollo.

Literally meaning "rice with chicken," arroz con pollo is a traditional Spanish dish that is also common throughout Latin America. A variation on the Spanish paella -- which consists of seafood, chorizo, and chicken -- this simpler dish is made with only chicken.

Both paella and arroz con pollo and have their roots in 8th century Spain, when the Moorish occupation influenced Spanish imports, exports, and ultimately the way Spaniards ate. Most importantly, the Moors brought an irrigation system, which introduced rice -- a major staple in Spanish cuisine -- to the region. But traces of the Moorish culture can also be seen in the spices used in the rice dish, mainly saffron, cumin, and coriander, which were included for both color and flavor. The Moors also commonly ate communal dishes which were shared and passed around the table, as are arroz con pollo and paella.

Though some variations of arroz con pollo include chorizo as well, recipes generally call for chicken, rice, sofrito (a mix of garlic, peppers, and onions), chicken stock, and sometimes olives, capers, or spices and herbs like saffron, bay leaf, coriander and cumin.

This recipe, slightly adapted from Food & Wine, uses dark meat thighs and drumsticks and smoked ham to make a rich and flavorful base. Feel free to add a pinch of spice for kick or a splash of beer or white wine to add depth of flavor.

Arroz con Pollo

Ingredients 1 tbsp olive oil 4 chicken thighs 4 chicken drumsticks 2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp fresh-ground black pepper 2 oz smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice 1 small onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 1 3/4 cups canned tomatoes, drained and chopped 1 tbsp tomato paste 2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock 1 cup rice, preferably long-grain 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley Optional: a splash of beer or white wine, a few pinches of cumin, coriander, and/or saffron

Directions:

In a large, deep frying pan, heat oil over moderately high heat. Season chicken with 1/4 tsp each of the salt and pepper. Cook the chicken, turning, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the ham, onion, and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften, about 3 minutes longer.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and the remaining 1 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper (and optional spices) and bring to a simmer. If using beer or wine, add a splash before you add the tomatoes. Stir in the rice and add the chicken in an even layer. Simmer, partially covered, over moderately low heat until the chicken and rice are just done, about 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.


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