Today is Favorite Casseroles day at the Food Network’s FN Dish and there is one heck of a line up for you with a wide variety of choices to cover all your bases. The links are listed below the recipe and don’t forget to head over to our Pinterest page to see all of our weekly recipes.
One of my all time favorites is Arroz con Pollo, the classic chicken and rice dish made in most Latin countries, and rumored to have originated in Puerto Rico. While versions vary from country to country, they all have a similar pattern. You fry chicken pieces in oil and then cook vegetables in the drippings. Place the chicken back in the pot, add rice and broth and simmer until the rice is done and the liquid has evaporated. Very simple to make, and oh so delicious!
I was about 9 years old the first time I made it and it was one of those moments in my life when you look back and realize that in that moment your entire future changed – all because of a recipe in a borrowed cookbook and an enthusiastic teacher in my school.
When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher hosted a potluck dinner to help us get more involved in learning Spanish. Some children made decorations, some brought music, and I was asked to bring an entree. There were no Mexican restaurants in our little town so we had tried very little beyond Americanized tacos. My mom and I went to the library and got a cookbook on Mexican cuisine. We settled on Arroz con Pollo. It looked and sounded good, wasn’t too complicated, and we decided to try it.
Mom and I stood side by side in the kitchen, reading the recipe together, gathering the ingredients, making a shopping list for everything we didn’t have and studying the pictures. Step by step we made the dish and it smelled heavenly as it was baking. When it came out of the oven we each took a bite and were stunned – it was absolutely amazing, so much better than anything we had ever made!
I packed it up and took it to class, so proud of what we had created. The class loved it as much as Mom and I did. It was my first time cooking for people outside of our family and it was a resounding success. I got kudos from the teacher and other kids, cementing in my brain the concept that cooking can garner you peer recognition.
That was the day when I discovered cookbooks and I’ve been collecting them ever since. I started with a very old and tattered copy of The Joy of Cooking that was a wedding gift from my grandmother to my mother (yes, I still have it!) and now have bookshelves of all different types. And just like novels I read them cover to cover, tagging recipes I want to try. I will probably never make all the dishes but they are there just waiting for me!
I have made this dish in one form or another since that day. But this time I dialed up the flavor and boosted the vegetable quotient, making it much healthier and more delicious. It isn’t very spicy, just full of incredible flavors that are built with a few steps. And don’t forget that you can make the entire thing a day ahead for even more flexibility.
The original recipe calls for a whole cut-up chicken on the bone, but I was running short on time so I switched to boneless skinless breasts which cook much more quickly. The Artist was starving and needed to eat sooner rather than later.
If you have trouble getting your kids to eat vegetables, cut each type of vegetable into very small pieces and cook them down until they start to caramelize, then add some tomatoes, seasonings, and you’ve got the base for a great dish that your kids will love. If all else fails, add some grated cheese and melt it over the rice – that is guaranteed to have everyone begging for seconds.
If you are cooking for vegetarians, you can leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. You can use this recipe to create an amazing side dish, even if you don’t want to make the chicken to go along. I honestly can’t wait for the leftovers, which after an evening in the refrigerator will be even better with more developed and melded flavors. Can you guess what we will be having for dinner tomorrow? LOL
I hope you put this recipe on your to-make list and give it a try soon. I know you will love it as much as The Artist and I do. Have a fabulous weekend!
Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo (Gluten-Free)
© 2014 Jane Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 cut-up chicken, skin removed (or 4 large boneless, skinless breasts)
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 tbsp ground ancho chile powder
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp organic olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
2 carrots, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stem, seeds, and ribs removed, minced
2 cups long-grain white or brown rice (or a blend)
3 cups diced tomatoes with their juices (about one 28 oz can chopped tomatoes)
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 tsp ground ancho chile powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
2 cups chicken broth (gluten-free if needed)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley, divided
Set a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Set a plate and a 9×13-inch baking pan next to the stove.
Prepare the Chicken: Season the chicken pieces with the chile powder, salt, and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and add the chicken (cook in batches if it won’t all fit at the same time). Reduce the heat to medium and cook the chicken until browned on the first side, about 5 minutes and then turn with tongs to cook the second side until golden brown. (If using boneless chicken, reduce this to about 3 minutes per side.) Transfer the chicken to the plate. If cooking in batches, add the remaining chicken, brown and add to the first batch on the plate.
Prep the Rice: Add the oil to the same pan you cooked the chicken in and stir in the onions, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and poblanos or jalapenos. Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are slightly softened, stirring often, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and continue cooking, tossing occasionally until the rice is lightly toasted and starting to get a little color, about 10 minutes.
When the rice is ready, stir in the tomatoes and wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper, peas, and corn, stirring until all the ingredients are combined. Transfer to the baking dish, stir in the broth and half the cilantro.
Bake the Casserole: Add the chicken to the dish, snuggling the white meat pieces down into the rice and liquid to protect them from overcooking, and placing the dark meat pieces on top of the rice and vegetables. Place in the hot oven.
Bake until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 40 to 50 minutes. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast is 160°F. If the chicken finishes before the rice, transfer it to a plate and tent loosely with foil; continue baking the rice. If using boneless breasts, cut each one crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. If needed, return the chicken to the pan for 10 minutes to rewarm before serving.
To Serve: Try a bite of the rice and broth and adjust seasoning if needed. Scoop rice into warmed serving bowls and top with some the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the remaining cilantro for bright flavor and serve immediately.
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