Rio Grande Valley Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken With Rice)
Arroz con pollo is a family skillet dinner, frontera style. Chicken with rice is a major comfort food for me and many others who grew up along the border. My grandmother and mother made it for me and my brother. This dish was one of the first things I learned to cook. I made it for my children and taught them how to cook it as well.
Back in the days when chickens were only sold whole, my mother would cut up a chicken into serving pieces to make this dish. She’d cut the entire breast into 4 pieces. Today, when chicken pieces come in packs, use any pieces you like. Dark meat like thighs and drumsticks are more flavorful. If using bone-in, skin-on half breasts, cut each into two same-size pieces. You may also want to try this with 18 drummettes.
When you’re in a hurry, use shredded chicken from another recipe or from a supermarket deli roasted chicken.
Important to remember: It’s okay to pick up bone-in chicken pieces to eat with your hands. Enjoy as finger-licking good. Use a fork for the rice.
Note that the recipe requires long-grain rice. Short-grain or parboiled—quick-cooking—rice will be gummy and it won’t brown properly.
Makes 6 servings
Arroz con pollo
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 pieces chicken (legs, thighs, wings, breast quarters), or 18 drummettes, or 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 1/3 cups long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped white onion
3 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 teaspoons Tex-Mex Holy Trinity
1 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet with a lid over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until it shimmers. Add the chicken pieces. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally, to brown all sides. Remove the chicken and its juices to a shallow pan and keep warm. Omit this step if using shredded cooked chicken.
In a blender jar or work bowl of a food processor, combine the tomatoes, garlic, and ¼ cup water. Process for 20 seconds, or until smooth. Set aside.
After the chicken is brown, in the same large skillet over medium heat, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the rice. Cook, stirring every minute, until the rice turns a light golden yellow, about 5 minutes.
To the rice in the skillet, carefully stir in the processed tomato mixture, the onion, 2½ cups water, the tomato sauce, Holy Trinity, and salt. Stir well to combine.
If using bone-in chicken, crowd the pieces in a single layer over the rice.
Return the skillet to high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Set aside off the heat, covered, for 5 minutes to finish cooking.
If using shredded chicken, stir the chicken into the rice to heat through just before serving.