Arroz Con Pollo: Spanish Chicken and Rice Casserole. It’s easy to see why this dish is so popular in Spain. It’s a big comforting pot of tender chicken, yellow rice, and peas, baked with broth, wine, tomatoes, aromatic vegetables, saffron and other spices. Super comforting and delicious!
I adore this dish. It’s colorful, comforting, and addictively delicious. It’s one of those dishes that makes it hard to resist overeating. If you’re like me, you’ll stuff yourself at dinner and still be stealing spoonfulls of rice from the pot as you clean up the kitchen. I’ve been serving up arroz con pollo since the early years of my marriage but I actually stopped making it for a long time because my youngest son doesn’t like chicken on the bone. He went off to college in September, and I miss him terribly, but I’m glad to have arroz con pollo back on our dinner table.
Arroz con pollo gets its great flavor from the sofrito, a thick sauce of sautéed aromatic vegetables. In Spain, and in Caribbean and Latin America countries a sofrito base is an important element of many dishes. The components of sofrito vary from country to country and from dish to dish. For example, the sofrito for Cuban arroz con pollo sometimes calls for meats like ham or chorizo. For authentic Puerto Rican sofrito you must include aji dolce peppers and cilantro. The sofrito for this Spanish style arroz con pollo has onions, garlic, red bell peppers, canned tomatoes, white wine and spices.
HERE’S HOW TO MAKE SPANISH STYLE ARROZ CON POLLO:
Start with 4 pounds of chicken parts. I like to use 2 pounds of thighs and 2 pounds of breasts. I usually ask the butcher to cut the breasts into three pieces because with smaller pieces, I get to have a taste of both thigh and breast on my plate. Sometimes I’ll get the thighs cut in half, if they’re large. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika and brown it in olive oil for a few minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the vegetables for the sofrito.
When the vegetables are tender, add wine, tomatoes, spices and rice. Let the rice simmer in the sauce for a few minutes and then return the chicken pieces to the pot and tuck them down into the rice and sauce. Cover the pot and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. Add the peas, arrange pimientos on top, and cook for 10 minutes longer.
This recipe comes from one of my favorite old cookbooks, Craig Claiborne’s The New York Time’s Cook Book. I’ve been making small tweaks to the recipe over time – just personal preferences. The most significant changes I made are: I quintuple the amount of garlic; add red bell pepper, add white wine, increase the amount of broth by a cup; increase the amount of saffron by 1/4 teaspoon, and I precook the rice before adding the chicken, to ensure that the rice is tender and fully cooked without the chicken being overcooked.
Don’t worry if you can’t finish the whole pot in one sitting. Arroz con pollo reheats really well and, if you’re like me, you’ll be happy to have it again the next day.
If you’re a fan of these types of comforting one-pot-wonderful chicken dishes, here are a couple of others that you might enjoy:
Here’s the recipe for arroz con pollo. I love to hear from you. I hope if you make this recipe you’ll come back to let me know how it turned out.
- 4 pounds of chicken parts with skin and bones. Cut breast and thighs in half or into thirds if you like smaller pieces. Trim off excess fat and skin.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more, to taste
- ½ teaspoon paprika (sweet, not hot)
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped (2 cups)
- 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (2½ tablespoons)
- ½ of a red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes (roughly chop tomatoes or tear by hand before adding)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 cups white rice, rinsed
- 10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted
- 4 ounce jar of sliced pimientos
- Optional Garnish:
- ⅓ cup green pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- Season chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of paprika, and several grinds of pepper
- In a large heavy oven-ready pot or dutch oven with a lid, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Brown chicken in batches. Don't overcrowd the pot or the chicken won't brown nicely. Sauté the chicken pieces for about 3 minutes skin side down and a minute or two on the other side. Set browned chicken aside on a plate as you go.
- When all the chicken is browned, pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot. Lower the heat to medium. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 30 seconds, stirring to release any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add tomatoes and their liquid, broth, bay leaf, oregano and remaining teaspoon of salt. To get full flavor from the saffron, either crush it in a mortar and pestle before adding it or hold your hands over pot and rub the saffron threads between your fingers or the palms of your hands and let them fall into the pot. (your hands will be yellow but it will come off with soap and water). Add the rice. Stir everything together. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower it to a simmer. Cover and simmer the rice for 4 minutes.
- Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot. Tuck the chicken pieces down into the sauce and rice so they are completely immersed. Bring the pot back to a simmer. Cover it and put it in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the peas. Arrange the pimientos on top. Cover and bake for 10 minutes longer.
- Serve hot, garnished with olives and cilantro, if you like.