Arroz con Pollo

The temperature has dropped in New York, calling for One-Pot Wonders. These are unfussy meals served from one pan.  Because many of the classics emphasize  starch plus protein (such as tuna-noodle casserole, lasagna, beef stew, etc.), I prefer to adapt the recipes to add in more vegetables. The best one-pot wonders are nutritional one-stop shopping, meaning no side dishes to make or extra pans to wash.

one pot wonders satisfy hunger and simplify meals

This is Latino style peasant food at its best. Serious comfort food. A jumble of flavor, texture and color, Arroz con Pollo has thousands of variations. My first memory of the dish is in the early 1980s, at the counter of La Rosita, a hole-in-the-wall joint on upper Broadway that was a favorite of ex-pat Dominicans, Cubans and puertorriqueños. As well as Columbia students and impoverished artist-types (the category I saw myself in). Fragrant, steamy rice cooked with chicken pieces. And nary a veggie in sight.

the window of long-gone la rosita on broadway

It would be easy to cook this in a slow cooker, if you have one. Be sure to brown the chicken pieces first, though. Slow cookers do meat a disservice if pieces are left whole in the final presentation. Once meat is browned, throw all the other ingredients in the slow cooker and set to low, cooking for 8 hours or so. You’ll come home to a house that smells inviting and dinner ready to eat.


Arroz con Pollo

Serves 4-6

For chicken
6 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice from 3 limes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 8 pieces; or 10 bone-in, skin-on thighs
2 tablespoons cooking oil

For rice
2 medium onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, chopped into 1” x ¼” strips
1 small winter squash (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1” cubes
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped small
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, including juice
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups long-grain white rice
½ cup fresh cilantro, minced (optional, for garnish)


Prepare chicken:

Purée garlic, lime juice, oregano, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. Put chicken pieces in a bowl or shallow dish and add purée, turning to coat. Marinate chicken, covered and chilled, at least 30 minutes but up to 24 hours.

Transfer chicken to paper towels, then pat dry. Reserve marinade.

Heat oil in 6- to 8-quart heavy pot or Dutch oven over a medium-high heat, then brown chicken in 2 or 3 batches, without crowding, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer browned chicken to a plate, reserving fat in pot.


Prepare rice:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat remaining in pot. Sauté onions, garlic, peppers, and squash over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits from chicken, until vegetables are softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add cumin and salt to vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping bottom of pot, and bubble for 1 minute. Add kale, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, tomatoes (including juice), broth, water, and reserved marinade. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Add all chicken except breast pieces (if using), skin sides up, and gently simmer, covered, over low heat 10 minutes. Stir in rice, then add breast pieces, skin sides up, and arrange chicken in 1 layer.  (For maneuverability, you may need to remove chicken pieces temporarily while stirring in rice, then replace pieces in one layer on top of rice and vegetable mix.) Return to a simmer. Cover pot tightly, then transfer to oven and bake until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

After testing rice for doneness and seasoning (adjust if more salt or pepper is needed), let pot rest out of the oven, covered, for 10 minutes. Garnish each serving with cilantro.


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