I can’t believe it: I’m posting my first recipe! Which is shocking, really, considering this blog was created to feature recipes you make when disaster strikes: When you’re stressed. Or sick. Or both. When five hungry people are coming for dinner and you only have 40 minutes to throw together a tasty meal. When you only have one burner. Or only one large pot.
I love one-pot meals. In part because there’s only one pot to wash. But mostly because there’s something very convivial and comforting about a meal that’s prepared in, and shared from, the same receptacle. Special Snowflakes be warned: here we all eat (from) the same dish. It’s the Mediterranean way.
This Cuban classic, which echoes Spain’s classic paella, is popular throughout Latin America. Its more common name is arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and more often than not it’s dominated by the cheaper ingredient, rice, with chicken playing a tasty but minor supporting role, and vegetables being largely absent.
Here we boost the dish’s nutritional value by reducing the rice portion and increasing vegetable and chicken content. I’ve added a can of beans, which isn’t strictly Cuban, but very tasty and a great way of adding fiber and plant protein to the dish.
You may wonder why I’m recommending Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice (also known as converted rice); isn’t that the sort of refined grain I usually rail against? Actually, no. The parboiling process (described here) not only increases the nutrient content in the grain, but also makes it less likely to spike your blood sugar levels: according to various sources, including this one, parboiled rice has a glycemic index score of 38, compared with scores in the 60s to high 80s for most types of white rice.
Pollo con arroz
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 slices bacon coarsely chopped/cubed
- 1.1 lbs chicken thighs boneless, skinless
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic finely minced
- 3 bell peppers different colors, cored and de-seeded and cut into small, bite-sized strips
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp paprika powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup Uncle Ben's parboiled rice
- 1 tsp salt freshly ground black pepper
- 1 14oz can pinto beans drained, rinsed
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- ½ cup green olives pitted & sliced
- 1 cup frozen peas
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
- In a large pot with a heavy bottom, warm olive oil over medium heat and fry the chicken pieces, salting, peppering and cooking them on all sides until they are lightly golden all around (8-10 minutes). Transfer to a large dish or plate and set aside.
- Cook the bacon and onions in the hot oil in the skillet (sprinkled with a little salt to draw out the onion's juices -- this prevents burning), stirring every 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and peppers and cook on medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. With a cooking spoon, scrape off any meaty bits that may have attached to the bottom of the pot.
- Add bay leaf, paprika, cumin, oregano, rice, tomato paste and stock, and stir gently until all the rice grains are covered in the liquid and the tomato paste is evenly distributed. Add chicken pieces back into the pot, pressing them into the vegetable and rice mixture, but taking care that the rice remains submerged in the cooking liquid.
- Cover and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove (use pot-holders to handle hot pot and lid) and add olives, peas and parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice, stirring gently to combine all the flavors. Enjoy!