Thursday, August 30, 2007


I’m baking a carrot cake, and since it takes a long time, I thought I would spend it wisely and write a post about a dish, that it my mind at least, bears some similarities with carrot cake.

‘Arroz con pollo’ is literally ‘rice with chicken’, although nothing could be further than the truth, because it is closer to ‘rice with a whole bunch of things AND chicken’. Arroz con pollo is actually a great vegetarian dish if you take out the chicken, although if you take out the chicken you end up with ‘rice’. I had a home ec teacher in seventh grade, who taught us how to make a version of this rice without chicken and called it ‘garden rice’ which is a nice name that all you vegetarians out there can use if want to be fancy.

Arroz con pollo is a typical Central American dish; it is a one pot meal (which is great) especially for Ed who is perpetually on dishwashing duty. In Costa Rica, they like to make ‘arroz con pollo’ for big family reunions or birthday parties, in a huge pot that is only used at Christmas to boil tamales, or for this rice. They serve it with black beans and potato chips, I don’t know how this came to be, but my guess is that since there ARE potato chips in most parties, people just started eating them on the side, and it became a tradition to have potato chips with the dish, although from the outside (us foreigners) it does seem pretty strange, this is perfectly normal for Eduardo though.

Ok, so carrot cake and arroz con pollo aren’t all that similar, the one thing they have in common is they both have carrots in very small pieces. Maybe it was the color that reminded me of the rice. It doesn’t matter really, this rice is very good, it has tons of vegetables, it’s easy, it’s one pot (well two, close enough), it has a nice presence too, and if you make it vegetarian and you are NOT a vegetarian it could go nicely with rotisserie chicken. And tortillas! But that’s probably too much to ask. You can also substitute the chicken for small shrimp and serve it with a wedge of lemon, and you’ll get ‘arroz con camarones’.

(The first layer of my cake just came out of the oven and it smells and looks great! I will definitely post about it! It will be my first sweet post!)


Arroz con Pollo

1 cup long grain rice
1 chicken breast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 carrot
¼ of a bell pepper (any color)
1 small onion
1 handful of green beans or green peas (about ½ a cup)
2 cloves of garlic
2 chicken bouillon cubes (small)
2 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of oil
¼ teaspoon of food coloring (annatto, onoto, achiote, or bija they’re all the same, it is a natural coloring that comes from a South American tree, that is sometimes called ‘lipstick tree’ because of the color of its seeds) this is not necessary at all, ‘achiote’ has no flavor, it is just aesthetic). You can use any food coloring; even liquid food coloring is fine if you dissolve it in the stock first. Aim for a light orange.

In a small pot place the chicken breast, the water, the bouillon cubes and the bay leaf. Cook on high until it boils, cover, lower the temperature, and let it simmer. This will create a quick stock.

In the meantime chop all you vegetables in small peaces. In a large pot, heat the oil until its smoking; add all your vegetables, while stirring every now and then. Take the chicken out of the stock you’ve just made and put on a chopping board. By now you should start to feel the ‘aromas’ (this a very Latin way of cooking), add the rice to the vegetables, stir it until it is coated with the oil and all the ingredients are mixed well, add the stock (if you are using food coloring dissolve it in the stock before adding it to the rice). Stir once, and no more (if you stir rice too much it will get sticky), wait until it boils; lower the temperature to the minimum and cover. The rice will be done when the water evaporates.

Chop the chicken into small pieces and add to the rice when it is almost dry, mix lightly and serve!