Cuban chicken and rice (aka arroz con pollo) is flavored with paprika, beer and saffron and makes an easy weeknight meal.
2 cups Valencia rice
3 cups chicken broth
2 pounds chicken thighs (I used boneless, skinless, but any way is fine)
1 cup chopped onion
½ red bell pepper (I prefer red but you can also use green bell pepper)
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
¼ black pepper
Pinch saffron threads (optional but highly recommended)
1/4 cup olive oil
½ cup tomato sauce
More salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup white cooking wine
1 cup beer
Trim the chicken pieces to remove the excess fat. Mix the cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper together and rub on the chicken. Let the chicken sit while you chop the onions and peppers and crush the garlic. Finally, measure out and rinse the rice.
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to a large frying pan or dutch pot and heat on medium-high. Add the chicken pieces and brown on each side. Don’t crowd the pan; cook into two batches if necessary. This should take about 4-6 minutes.
Remove the chicken, add the onions, garlic, and peppers, and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and saute for another minute. Add the rice and saute for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, and saffron threads. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. At this point, you may want to add a little more of the spices or salt to taste. Add the chicken and turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, lower heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed and the rice is al dente. Then add a cup of beer, cover, and cook for a few more minutes until the rice is done and most of the liquid is absorbed. This could take 5-10 minutes. This is not an exact science, so check on it to make sure it does not overcook.
Garnish with peas and pimentos and serve the fried plantains and a side salad. Then, get a little cake, and you’ve got my birthday meal all set!
You can marinate the chicken overnight using the spices, crushed garlic cloves, and wine. In that case, still use the 2 garlic cloves and the 1/4 cup white wine in your preparation. You may also want to add more spices once you add the broth and taste the seasonings. I don’t usually marinate my chicken, but some folks do it this way.
To be totally honest, this dish tastes even better when you use the bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks. But I don’t like picking through the bones, it’s a personally hang-up, so I opt for boneless and skinless. I don’t suggest chicken breast because it tends to be dry and doesn’t absorb as much flavor. However, if you go with the skinless and boneless chicken, make sure to add chicken broth.
To make this dish with long grain rice, cut the broth down to two cups (so it’s a one-to-one ratio). Then cut the beer amount to ½ cup and cook it until the liquid is fully absorbed.
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