Arroz con Pollo is part of The Latin Lover’s childhood. He likes this version, because it has tons of flavor, with just a bit of smoky heat. This is a fix-it-and-forget-it meal, thanks to the slow cooker; dinner will be ready when you come home and the aroma…baby, life is good!
This is a perfect slow cooker dish. This is a one-dish dinner and you can put this together the night before you need it (right through step 4), refrigerate in the ceramic liner and the next morning pop the liner into the slow cooker, put the cover on and turn it to LOW. If you have a great memory, turn it to HIGH while you take your shower, then down to LOW just before you leave for work. I don’t have a great memory, so I do just the LOW part. It may take an additional hour to finish cooking, but that’s okay with me. I actually prefer to let the meat “marinate” overnight; I think is has more flavor, but do whatever works best for you.
This is what the finished dish will look like. This is more of a Cuban version, than a Mexican version. Traditionally, Cubans don’t eat spicy, hot food. Highly seasoned, indeed, but they don’t cook with a lot of hot chiles. Cuban-Americans, like more and more Americans, probably have adjusted their taste buds to enjoy hotter foods. The Latin Lover loves spicy food, but that’s not what the Arroz con Pollo of his childhood would have been; it would have been closer to this version.
Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano (if unavailable, use regular oregano leaves)
- 1 tablespoon New Mexico chile powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked sweet (or hot) paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin (toasted, if possible)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 6 small skinless bone-in chicken breast halves (about 3 pounds)*
- 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 large bell pepper, diced or cut into strips (frozen strips work great)
- 1/2 lime
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (optional)
- 1 cup chicken broth (add more later, if needed)
- 2 cups converted (par-boiled) rice
- 1-1/2 cups frozen peas
- 1/2 cup alcaparrado (a mixture of pitted green olives, pimentos and capers)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 1 cup petit diced tomatoes, drained)
- 1-2 ripe avocados, cubed
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges, for serving
*boneless (or bone-in), skinless chicken thighs (8-10) will have more flavor and better texture.
Combine oregano, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl; set aside. Place the chicken in a large bowl; add the orange juice concentrate and sprinkle half of spice mixture over chicken; set the remaining spice mixture aside. Rub the o.j. concentrate and spices into the chicken–fingers work exceptionally well for this!
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 4-5 minutes (chicken will not be fully cooked).
While the chicken is browning, toss the onion and bell pepper pieces over the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker liner. As the chicken browns, transfer to the slow cooker on top of the onions and peppers. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken; discard the lime shell.
Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, if using and remaining spice mixture in a blender. Cover and blend until almost smooth; pour over chicken. Pour the broth around the edges of the slow cooker, not over the chicken.
Cover and cook, 4-5 hours on LOW or 2-2-1/2 hours on HIGH. Gently stir in rice, cover and cook on HIGH, stirring once, 45 minutes. Turn cooker off, stir in peas and alcaparrado; cover and let stand 15-30 minutes.
Combine the cherry tomatoes, avocados, red onion and cilantro; toss together. Serve chicken and rice with garnish; serve with lime wedges on the side.
Arroz Con Pollo Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
I know this recipe calls for chicken breasts, but thighs are the way to go…boneless, skinless thighs (or bone-in, no skin…more flavor). White meat dries out too easily to work well in a slow cooker; the meat becomes stringy. If you feel you must use chicken breasts, then by all means do so, but the flavor and texture will suffer. The Middle Son was a white meat guy, but has become a convert to chicken thighs, particularly in the slow cooker. But, whichever you choose to use, do not omit the browning step. It really will help contribute to the overall depth of flavor and that’s what it’s all about!
Alcaparrado is a blend of small, green olives (I prefer the pitted olives, which you can see in the picture), capers and pimento strips; Goya brand is readily available and good, but there are others. This is great to have on hand to add to a tossed salad, with pineapple chunks and feta or a sharp bleu cheese; drain the alcaparrado well before using. I also like to use this mixture with a beef or chicken stew and the sharpness compliments fish nicely, too.
Make a nice, leafy salad with a citrus vinaigrette (just add 1-2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate to the basic, maybe even a bit of grated orange zest, too), toss in some orange sections, maybe some strawberries, pineapple cubes, or seedless grapes, some nuts…you get the idea. I like the citrus aspect, as I think it balances the spicy, richness of the chicken well. For dessert, maybe some mango or passion fruit sorbet or make Great Flan….
One last thing, if you love spicy, then spice this up with the chipotle powder, or other hot chiles. The Spice Mill has a great selection of powders, flakes and whole dried chiles. You need to call or better yet, come into the store to appreciate the entire selection. They now sell Carolina Reaper Chile Powder…1.5 to 2.2 million units on the Scoville scale. Yes, you read that correctly; this is mind-numbing, serious heat, for crazy people…you know who you are!