In Filipino cuisine, my favorite comfort dish is Chicken Adobo with rice. Any flavorful, marinated chicken paired with rice is going to appeal to me right off the bat. So it's no wonder that I'd be a fan of Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice.) There are so many variations of this dish and I'm sure everyone that makes it has their own special touches to make it theirs. I've made Arroz con Pollo before but it always fell short - too mushy, too bland, not a good ratio of chicken to rice, etc. But now I can rest easy because this recipe is perfect. Absolutely perfect.
Chicken thighs are the ideal cut of chicken to use because they're a more flavorful cut (as opposed to chicken breast which tends to dry out.) To maximize the flavor of the chicken, it's briefly marinated in a mixture of minced garlic, salt, vinegar and black pepper. While that marinates, a sofrito is made by sauteing onions and bell peppers. The sofrito is pushed to the side of the pot and the marinated chicken goes in to brown up. Once the chicken is browned, chicken broth, water and tomato sauce is added. I adapted the recipe by using ketchup instead because I wanted the touch of sweetness it would bring to the dish.
For added color and flavor, I also added a packet of Sazon - a 'secret ingredient' I like to add to all Latin inspired dishes. It's a common ingredient used in Latin cuisine that provides flavor (such as garlic, cilantro, etc) and color (a rich orange hue from annato that's included in the seasoning). You can find it in the Latin aisle of supermarkets. If you can't find it, no worries... the recipe will be fine without it.
The chicken simmers a bit before adding the rice, salty capers and pimento stuffed green olives (another adaptation I made in place of olives and pimentos called for in the original recipe). Once the pot comes to a simmer, it's baked in the oven for a bit, stirred and baked some more until the rice is fully cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. Back on the stovetop, the chicken is removed and deboned, then placed back into the pot. The chicken is folded into the flavorful rice and served. But hold on... the best is yet to come. If you don't mind testing your patience, this dish really is best served the next day when all the flavors have melded together. Heaven. When I made this, I halved the recipe and now I can't wait to go back to the store and make the full recipe...
Arroz con Pollo
recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated
6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Ground black pepper
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 small green and/or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup ketchup
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup water
1 packet (2 teaspoons) of Sazon seasoning
3 cups long-grain rice
1/2 cup pimento stuffed green olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; using rubber spatula, mix to make smooth paste. Add oregano, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to garlic-salt mixture; stir to combine. Place chicken in bowl with marinade. Coat chicken pieces evenly with marinade; set aside for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begin to soften. Push the onions and peppers to sides of pot and increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken to clearing in center of pot, skin side down, in even layer. Cook, without moving chicken, until outer layer of meat becomes opaque. (If chicken begins to brown, reduce heat to medium). Using tongs, flip chicken and cook on second side until opaque. Add ketchup, broth, and water; stir to combine. Bring to simmer; cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add rice, olives, capers, bell peppers, half of the chopped cilantro, Sazon and 3/4 teaspoon salt; stir well. Bring to simmer, cover, and place pot in oven. After 10 minutes, remove pot from oven and stir chicken and rice once from bottom up. Return pot to oven. After another 10 minutes, stir once more, adding 1/4 cup water if rice appears dry and bottom of pot is beginning to burn. Cover and return pot to oven; cook until rice has absorbed all liquid and is tender but still holds its shape and temperature of chicken registers 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes longer.
Using tongs, remove chicken from pot; replace lid and set pot aside. Remove and discard chicken skin; using 2 foks, pull meat off bones into large chunks. Using fingers or forks, remove remaining fat or dark veins from chicken pieces. Place chicken back into the pot on top of rice, cover, and let stand until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining chopped cilantro, folding in to combine. Serve, passing lemon wedges separately.