Some of my fondest childhood memories involve some sort of family gathering that usually began early in the day, around the kitchen area of a relative’s home. More often than not, that scene involved my grandmother prepping and cooking a meal that always proved too large to eat but too tasty to be discarded. So we went for seconds, and sometimes thirds, and grew up relishing in the fact that Cuban women were built to have curves.
I was recently lucky enough to capture one of these gatherings in my own little kitchen, with Abuela making one of my absolute favorite dishes: Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera (or, Cuban Yellow Rice with Chicken). Keep reading for pics and step-by-step instructions on how to recreate it sans Cuban Abuela.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
1) A large pot (this recipe serves 8 – 10) for the Arroz con Pollo and a medium sized pot to poach the chicken separately.
2) Boneless chicken breast (3 breasts poached in salted water, then cubed)
3) Valencia short grain rice (washed, 3 – 14 oz. packs)
4) Garlic (3 whole, crushed in mortar), Red Peppers (2, diced), Large Yellow Onion (1, diced)
5) Manzanilla Olives (pitted, stuffed with pimientos), Pimientos (1 small jar, sliced, Conchita shown)
6) Cooking Wine (1 bottle – Edmundo Golden Cooking Wine shown), Beer (1 – lager – we used Heineken)
7) Tomato Puree (2 cans, Goya 8 oz. can shown), Cumin, Salt, Chicken Bouillon Cubes (5 cubes), Complete Seasoning (we used Badia, not shown), Bijol (for coloring, not shown)
8) Frozen Peas (we used 8 oz. from a 16 oz. bag, add as preferred)
9) Bay leaves (6 – 8)
10) Olive oil for frying the onions, garlic and red pepper
1) Peel and crush three whole heads of garlic in a mortar with pestle.
2) Wash, gut, and dice the red pepper.
3) Peel and dice the onion.
4) In medium sized pot, boil water and poach the chicken. Add salt into the water to taste.
5) Heat the large pot as the chicken is cooking.
6) Once the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the water and chop into cubes. Set aside. Keep the clear broth as you’ll be using it later.
HOW TO MAKE IT:
1) Once your large pot and oil are hot and ready, add the diced red pepper and onion. Allow that to soften for a few minutes before adding the garlic. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so it should be tossed in last.
2) Add the chicken and mix it in with the “sofrito” mix (onion, pepper, and garlic).
3) Season the mixture with cumin and complete seasoning. Add chicken bouillon cubes.
4) Add manzanilla olives with liquid and cooking wine slowly (1 whole bottle).
5) Add Bijol, bay leaves and tomato puree. Stir.
6) Add in rice (washed) and chicken broth (to fill pot only, set aside any leftover broth). Mix well.
7) Taste for seasoning and salt. If it lacks salt, now is the time to add it in (to taste).
8) Cover and let simmer on medium heat and check on pot every ten minutes to stir. Cover again. Repeat this until the rice is thoroughly cooked. Lower heat incrementally as rice cooks. Valencia rice takes a while to cook because it’s a tougher grain so be patient with this portion of the process.
9) Once rice is tender, check levels of broth. If necessary (if it has reduced too much as this dish is meant to be a little on the soupy side), add a little more and stir.
10) Add the frozen peas.
11) Add pimientos (sliced, with pimiento water – one whole small jar). Stir.
12) Pour beer over rice. Turn off heat. Cover for a few minutes and allow to rest. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re ever able to get your hands on a copy of “Cocina Criolla” for less than a couple hundred bucks, pick one up and save it for future use. This is one of the classics my grandmother still keeps tucked away with little folds of paper inscribed with recipes that have been passed down for generations. If you enjoy Cuban cooking at all, this is your Bible.