I’ve mentioned my grandmother, Yaya, had 9 kids, but did I mention she had 30 grand children. This lady would cook for the entire family every Sunday almost without fail. Everything she made was incredible, however she did have her occasional critics. While I love my family, we are a bunch of sarcastic hooligans, and this worsens with hunger. Hanger and sarcasm are hereditary, trust me.
A typical Sunday in a house filled with 50 hungry Cubans looked exactly as you would imagine. You walked into the house and were greeted with the wave of loud conversation and laughter, plus the smell of whatever she had cooked that day and the lingering smell of whatever delicious dinner she made for my grandfather, Abuelo, the night before.
There were people everywhere. Some were already eating at the dining table, some had set up shop in front of the TV (definitely if it was football season), some at the bar in the kitchen, and everyone gossiping. As you pile in you had to find Abuela and give her a huge hug (mandatory) and then find our plates and serve our food on a first come first serve basis. She always had more than enough, but liked us to have that fear of not getting food if we didn’t show up early.
If you were a betting man, you would definitely guess that Yaya was likely going to make Arroz Con Pollo for lunch on Sunday. I didn’t appreciate it back then as much as I do now. I took it for granted and always complained asking why she didn’t make Vaca Frita or Garbanzos. In hindsight, I would give anything to have a plate of her Arroz Con Pollo just one more time. It’s the dish I miss the most, by far.
As a mom of three now, I totally see why she made this so often. Besides being delicious and universally liked, it’s a one pot dish. What mom doesn’t love hearing one pot! She was cooking for an army, so she had this cartoonishly big cast iron pot that would somehow feed us all. But for the sake of this recipe you can use a regular sized one.
There aren’t any millennial modifications here. Not just because this recipe makes me nostalgic, but it’s more about comfort than calories here.
This recipe makes for 8 (probably a little more because Cubans always go overboard)
- 1 tablespoon salt divided
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ cup Mojo Sauce
- 6 chicken thighs bone in, skin still on
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups valencia rice
- 1 teaspoon Bijol
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 4 cups low-salt chicken stock
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce
- 1 beer (any works lately I use Modelo because it’s what I have)
- ½ cup of dry white wine
Combine half the salt, half garlic powder, black pepper in a plastic gallon bag along with the ½ cup of Mojo. Shake until the mixture is well combined.
Pat the chicken dry and place in the bag with the spice mixture. Shake the bag, making sure the chicken is well coated.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch high-sided skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes each side. Transfer the chicken to a plate, using tongs. Use wine to break up the brown bits from the bottom.
Add the onions, green peppers, red peppers and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Cook the vegetables over moderate heat, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and garlic and mix together. Add the chicken back in and bring the heat down to a simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes until cooked through.
Meanwhile rinse the rice in a strainer or bowl and add the bijol to get the right yellow color mix with your hands or a spoon. Remove the chicken from the pot to shred it (optional you can leave it whole and leave it in the pot) Add the rice and cook until the rice begins to turn in color and fragrant, about 1 minute.
Meanwhile, bring the heat back to medium high. Start adding the liquids. I do the beer first so that we can be sure it cooks out. Then add the 4 cups of stock making sure the rice and chicken are covered. Bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. If you shredded the chicken cook until the rice is tender. I like it a little soupy, but this is your preference to keep it covered until the rice absorbs more of the liquid. It takes anywhere from 20 to about 35 minutes. Let the skillet stand covered, about 10 minutes before serving.
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