Meat with rice is a universal comfort food. Indians call it biryani, the Spanish call it Paella, Italians call it risotto, and generally, the term most commonly used is pilaf (or pilav, pulao or whatever you wish to name it). When you look at the history of a certain dish, you may be amazed at how some combinations transcend boundaries. Can the Indian sub-continent really lay claim to the biryani? Or weren’t they influenced by Persian settlers?
Anyway, we love a good biryani at our home. But the amount of work included has relegated it to a weekend or special-occasion dish. That is when I discovered a Latin American style pilaf called arroz con pollo (simply, rice with chicken).
The delicately seared chicken, along with the fragrant broth in which the rice is cooked, gives it a delicious depth of flavor that we cannot get enough of. It is mild, yet utterly flavorful and chock full of nutrients, depending on how much vegetables you use or what kind of broth/stock is used.
It is also the best one-pot dish I’ve ever come across. Sorry, biryani and fried-rice lovers. I think biryani is too much work and too heavy for weekday meals. Whereas fried-rice is best eaten fresh, as leftovers can be dry. But arroz con pollo is the perfect bet when you want something easy yet slightly fancy, and it tastes equally good the next day too. Win-win all over! Over here, the hubs and kiddo love it. Which is the only excuse I need to make it a regular fixture.
As I just cannot not Indianize whatever I cook, I added coriander and red chili to the chicken. You can leave this out and simply season with salt and pepper. As for the vegetables, I had red onions, carrots and red bell peppers on hand. You may also use green peas, corn and olives. But whatever you do, don’t forget a generous dose of garlic.
When the dish was done, I had some leftover red pepper and minced garlic. Not wanting to waste them, I came up with a quick, flavored yogurt dip/raita. I roasted the red pepper on the stove, till the skin was charred well. Then I stuck it along with the garlic in a hot oven. After it cooled down, I blended it with some thick yogurt for a delicious side to the rice.
ARROZ CON POLLO (RICE WITH CHICKEN)
You will need:
- Chicken – 4 thigh pieces, cut in half
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
- Oil – 3 tbsp
- Onion – 1, chopped
- Garlic – 6-7 pods, minced
- Red pepper – 1, roughly chopped
- Carrot – 1, roughly chopped (or a small handful of green peas, corn, etc)
- Tomato – 1, roughly chopped
- Tomato paste or ketchup – 1 tbsp
- Rice – 1 1/2 cups, any long-grained variety
- Chicken stock – 3 cups
- Salt – to taste
- Cilantro – a small handful, roughly chopped
- Season the chicken pieces with red chili, coriander and cumin powders and salt.
- Heat oil in a deep pan and fry the chicken on all sides till lightly browned. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan (remove extra fat, keeping around 2 tbsp or so in the pan), saute the onions and garlic. When onions turn translucent, add the rest of the vegetables and tomato paste/ketchup. Cook them for 3-4 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash the rice and drain the water. Add this rice to the pan and mix well.
- Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth and cilantro leaves and bring to a boil. Check the seasoning, then reduce the heat, cover, and allow the rice to cook, maybe 15 minutes or so. The rice should be al-dente and not mushy.
- Once done, mix well and serve hot.
Delicious arroz con pollo can be served with the following yogurt raita.
ROASTED RED PEPPER AND GARLIC YOGURT
You will need:
- Red pepper – 1 small, halved and seeds removed
- Garlic – 2-3 tbsp, minced (depends on how garlicky you want it)
- Yogurt – 1 cup
- Salt – to taste
- Dried or fresh herbs – for garnish (I used dried oregano)
- Roast the red pepper on the stove till the skin is nicely charred. Use a sturdy pair of tongs or a couple of large fork to do so.
- Wrap the minced garlic in a piece of foil and keep aside. Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F.
- Bake the charred red pepper and garlic for 8-10 minutes. Alternately, you can just roast the pepper on the stove and lightly saute the garlic in a little oil. Let them cool down.
- Once cooled, peel the skin off the red pepper and chop it. Blend the red pepper and garlic with the yogurt till smooth. Add salt to taste and garnish with a sprinkling of any herb of your choice.
A raita with a really unique twist. It goes really well with the arroz con pollo.
I hope you try these and let me know how you liked them.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
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