Saturday, September 14, 2013


Arroz con pollo--rice with chicken--an easy dish.

Do you have a favorite go-to dish, one that you can whip up without too much planning and feel good serving to guests?

For me, that dish is arroz con pollo, rice with chicken. Like paella, it is generous and festive. Everything cooks in one pan, so it’s an easy dish for entertaining. But, unlike paella, it requires little prepping. No shrimp to peel, clams or mussels to steam open, squid to prepare.

Sofrito--garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms.
Like paella, this rice dish starts with an easy sofrito of onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes to create the flavor. You brown the chicken pieces, add stock or water, then the rice.

Unlike paella, this dish can be cooked in almost any pan—an earthenware cazuela; a deep, lidded casserole; a big skillet; a paella pan or a perol, a deep two-handled frying pan. The proportion of liquid to rice is slightly more than double, so it isn’t a “dry” rice, like paella, but meloso, or slightly juicy. That’s pretty forgiving—but you still have to take care not to overcook the rice. And, unlike risotto, the rice is not stirred while cooking.

Arroz con pollo is a dish easily stretched to feed last-minute guests. Just cut the chicken into smaller pieces. This is rice with chicken, after all, not chicken with rice!

I like to use one chicken piece per serving (legs, thighs, wings, breast cut in quarters). I use the backs and wing tips to make a quick and easy stock. But, even this is not necessary. You can use canned low-sodium chicken broth or—water!

Arroz con pollo is a dish that, except for fresh chicken, can usually be put together with ingredients in the pantry or freezer. In the spring, fresh habas (fava beans), peas, artichokes and asparagus are perfect additions. In this season, I’m using green beans from the garden. Zucchini, mushrooms, canned butter beans are other options.

Medium-short-grain rice.
Use Spanish medium-short-grained “round” paella rice for this recipe. If you can get it, the bomba variety is best, because it does not swell up and “flower” when cooked with lots of liquid. In Latin-America they make arroz con pollo with long-grain rice. It’s good, but the rice doesn’t soak up the flavors the way it does with Spanish rice.

Saffron is optional in this rice dish. Use it if you’ve got it. In any case, use enough sweet pimentón (paprika, not smoked) to add a slight ruddy color to the rice. I like to add a pinch of smoked pimentón as well. It gives a hint of sausage to the rice.

Flavorful rice, chicken and vegetables.

Rice with Chicken
Arroz con Pollo

Serves 6 to 8.

3 pounds chicken pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup peeled and diced tomato
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans or lima beans
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans, preferably romano, cut in short lengths
5 cups chicken broth or water
¼ teaspoon saffron threads (optional)
Pinch of ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet pimentón (paprika)
Pinch of cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 cup diced potato (1 medium potato), optional
2 cups short-grained rice

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large cazuela or skillet. Brown the chicken pieces in the oil, turning to brown all sides. Remove the chicken as it is browned.

Sauté the garlic, peppers and onions 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté on high heat for 2 minutes. If using fresh peas, fava beans and green beans, add them now. Add 1 cup of the broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Return the chicken pieces to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the liquid bubbles gently. Cover the pan and cook 15 minutes.

In a mortar, crush the saffron, if using, to a powder. Mix it with a little of the remaining broth or water.  Add the saffron water to the pan with the pepper, cloves, cumin, pimentón, cayenne and bay leaf.

Turn the chicken pieces and add the potatoes, if using. Cover and cook 5 minutes more. Add the remaining 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil and stir in the rice. (If using frozen peas, fava beans, and green beans, add them now.) Taste for salt and add additional if necessary. Reduce heat so liquid bubbles gently. Cover the pan and cook 15 to 17 minutes, stirring only once during this time. The rice should be al dente. Not all of the liquid will be absorbed.

Remove pan from the heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before serving.


  1. Just cooked this.I used arborio rice as that's what i had.Got a red pepper and chicken thighs from local Co-op.Boned thighs and used trimmings with some old veg to make a stock.Luckily I've got some decent Spanish pimenton and used the last of the Toms from the greenhouse.Worked a treat.I've usually used long grain rice for a Jambayala but this trumps it.

    1. vrj: Glad you enjoyed the Spanish rice and chicken recipe. It is a little like Jambalaya.