I still remember the first meal that I prepared for my husband back in the wee days when we first started dating in college. I had invited Lorenzo over for dinner at my apartment, and it was still in the beginning stages where we were still learning stuff about each other. My likes, his dislikes, because you know you want to know everything about each other in that young love stage. I was amateur at best and really wanted to impress him so I made a crab ceviche. It was a dish that I was comfortable enough to make and little did I know that he didn’t eat fish! OMG…it was a humble learning experience but he forgave me because I had made my godmother’s famous pecan tarts for dessert. He absolutely loved those, so he knew that I wasn’t a terrible cook.
Nowadays in my kitchen, I have been cooking without a problem. Knowing Lorenzo’s likes and dislikes in food has made everything so much easier. The hardest task has been learning his favorite dishes from his mother, and luckily whenever we get together – I ask for a cooking lesson on some of the Cuban dishes that she frequently makes. It’s been said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Believe me, this rings very true for Lorenzo and I. Besides, it always helps to know a couple of his childhood favorite dishes on the days that you want to go shopping for that new purse, shoes or a coveted kitchen appliance (wink, wink).
One of my mother-in-law’s beloved recipes is arroz con pollo. Arroz con pollo is spanish for chicken with rice and it is a classic Spanish dish composed of braised chicken thighs with sofrito, seasonings, rice and beer. This recipe is great because you cook everything in one pot – the chicken, rice and vegetables. It’s good ‘ole Cuban comfort food that makes Lorenzo love me more and more everyday. I feed my husband’s stomach, and he loves me with his heart. That’s a great trade-off I would say, or more importantly it’s really for the purse, shoes or the new kitchen appliances (hehe).
**Don’t forget to enter my Rick Bayless cookbook giveaway, it’s an autographed copy. Entries must be entered by tomorrow at midnight. Be sure to enter here!
Arroz con Pollo
Adapted from my mother-in-law Original Krystal recipe
8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin-on 3 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped coarsely
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced finely
1 green bell pepper, chopped finely
2 to 3 aji cachucha peppers, chopped (or you can use another bell pepper) *This is not to be confused with a habanero pepper*
1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer
1 (8 ounce) can of tomato sauce 1/2 cup dry cooking wine 4 cups water
2 to 3 tablespoons cumin
2 to 3 tablespoons of Complete seasoning (Sazon Completa)
1 teaspoon bjiol powder
1 teaspoon oregano
3 ½ cups rice
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup, roasted red bell peppers (chopped coarsely) for garnishment
Place all the dry chicken on a jelly roll sheet or large plate, and season the chicken lightly with a mixture of Sazon completa, cumin and salt. Make sure that both sides are covered. In a large dutch oven (about 7.5 quarts) heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin side down, and let it cook for about 3 to 4 minutes each side. Remove the chicken when it is browned on both sides and place back onto jelly pan.
Add a dash of olive oil and and sauté the sofrito over medium-high heat -the sofrito composed of onions and green peppers and cook until the onions are translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the minced garlic and cook an additional minute or two, stirring frequently.
Stir in the rice and mix to combine with the sofrito. Add the 12 ounces of beer, and let it cook off a bit. Then add the water, dry cooking wine, tomato sauce, and bijol. Make sure to stir well to fully incorporate the bijol. Bring the mixture to a boil.Place the cooked chicken, chopped aji cachucha, in the dutch oven, nestling them in and under the liquid. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook on low for about 40 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and not too liquidy. Add the frozen peas during the last five minutes of cooking. Stir to combine and taste for seasonings. Add salt and pepper. When ready to serve, you can either keep the chicken on the bone or shred it up and mix together. Garnish with roasted diced red bell peppers and freshly chopped cilantro.
Review: I think this is a pretty darn version, but not as good as my mother in law’s version. I need a little more fine-tuning and practice because my recipe is a little mushier than Lorenzo likes. There are two versions out there of arroz con pollo, the mushy version versus the non-mushy version. I’m still working on my technique, but for now this will do. This is definitely a keepsake dish for entertaining a large group because it will serve plenty.