I grew up eating a lot of Cuban Arroz con Pollo, a dish my mother learned when she lived in Florida. As a child, I naively assumed that all Arroz con Pollo was Cuban. But the Spanish phrase simply translates to “chicken with rice,” and there are as many variants as there are Spanish-speaking countries.
Bob Wilson made this delicious Spanish version for me and Philip when we visited him in Colorado in October 2013. It was rich and fabulous.
2-1/2 to 3-lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 T olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/4 lb salt pork, finely diced
1 C finely chopped onions
1 t finely chopped garlic
1 T paprika
1 C finely chopped tomatoes
1-1/2 C long-grain rice
1 C frozen peas
3 C boiling water
1/8 t ground saffron
2 T finely chopped parsley
Dry the chicken pieces with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a heavy 4-quart casserole, heat the oil and cook the salt pork until they have rendered all their fat and become crisp and golden. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Add the chicken pieces and brown, turning with tongs so they color quickly and evenly. Set the chicken aside.
Pour off all but a thin film of the oil. Saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent and soft. Stir in the paprika, then the tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, until most of the liquid in the pan evaporates and mixture is thick enough to hold its shape lightly in a spoon.
Return the chicken and pork to the pan and add the rice, peas, water, saffron, and 1 t of salt. Stir together gently. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
Stir in the parsley and adjust the seasonings. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.