Growing up, my best friend was Cuban, which meant I had easy access to all the homemade Cuban food a growing girl could ever want. While dinners at my house were filled with tuna casseroles and Stouffer’s lasagna her house was constantly overflowing with lechon, arroz con pollo, flan and fried plantains. You can understand why this hungry white girl might have eaten dinner at the Cuban household multiple nights a week. Or it’s even possible I might have eaten dinner at home and then eaten a second Cuban dinner down the street. As I mentioned before, I was a growing girl.
I rarely try to make Cuban food at home, because honestly, I know it won’t be as good. But, for one of my wedding shower gifts, the Cuban matriarch gifted me a Cuban cookbook so I thought I would give it a go.
I would be lying if I said it was as good as the arroz con pollo I feasted upon growing up, but for my first attempt it was pretty freaking good. At the end of the evening, we both ended up standing around the pan picking out the crispy pieces of rice from the bottom. So that seems like a good sign.
Arroz con Pollo (adapted from the Three Guys from Miami cookbook)
I definitely made some adaptations to this recipe as 1) I was only cooking for two people and 2) it was a weeknight, so I cut down on anything that would take me more than five minutes. I also updated the recipe to make it a one pan recipe. That’s just because I’m lazy, and I hate cleaning pans.
2 strips bacon, chopped
4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
To taste salt, pepper, and cumin for chicken
1/2 cup olive oil for frying
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped pimentos
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 12-ounce bottle beer
Pinch of saffron
2 and 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon Bijol Powder
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups of white rice
1/2 cup frozen green baby peas (optional – someone in my house refuses to eat peas)
Combine the beer and saffron in a small bowl. Set aside.
Sauté the bacon in a large frying pan. Reduce heat to low and let the fat render out of the bacon – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, season the chicken lightly with salt, pepper and a little cumin. Once the fat is released, remove the bacon, increase temperature to medium-high and add the chicken, skin side down in the hot bacon fat. Cook for about 4 minutes and then flip the chicken over, cooking another two minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, and put them aside on a clean plate.
Add a little olive oil to the same pan you fried the chicken in, and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the mashed garlic and cook an additional minute or two, stirring frequently. Then add the crisp bacon, tomatoes, pimentos, Bijol, bay leaf, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper followed by the broth and beer/saffron mixture. Bring everything to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cover and cook on low for 15 minutes.
Add the rice, then place the chicken on top. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer on low for about 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked and not soupy. Add the frozen peas during the last five minutes of cooking only.