Friday, May 3, 2013

Arroz con Pollo

by Sheila Connolly

I know, our delightful guest Victoria Hamilton gave a recipe for this dish only a few short months ago. But I've found that there are more variations to this than you can shake a stick at.  My husband makes one that involves tomato paste and peas.  Mine is comfort food, from a recipe my mother used.

There's a backstory to this dish.  My great-grandmother was wealthy, and her only child, my grandfather, was not exactly a go-getter.  When he married, at twenty, Mom bought him and his lovely bride…an orange plantation in Cuba.  So for several years they spent part of each year in Cuba, doing who knows what. "Managing," I assume, since they weren't working the groves themselves, I'm sure. The last trip they made there was in 1928, when my mother was a toddler. That year a hurricane wiped out the house, and they never rebuilt it.  But they held on to the property (and paid the taxes on it!) until the Communist takeover in the 1950s. I still have the deeds.

I may have mentioned before that my grandmother didn't cook, but somehow she passed on this recipe to my mother, so I guess that makes this a Cuban version.  My mother made it regularly when I was growing up, and that's why I know about saffron, which is an essential part of the dish.

About a half teaspoon
Saffron is expensive, and sometimes hard to find, but its flavor is unique.  And you can't skimp on it in this dish or it's wasted, so use it generously.  It also imparts a wonderful color to the rice.

My Mother's Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken)

Note:  Since there are only two of us at home, I usually cook this using two bone-in chicken breasts.  You can easily double it, or use other chicken pieces.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Vegetable oil for sauteing
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried saffron
1 1/2 cups rice (not instant)

Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a thin layer of oil in a sauté pan and sear the breasts, turning once.  Put the chicken pieces in a greased baking dish that has a lid.

Saute the onion in the same pan over medium heat, until soft but not browned.  Spread the cooked onions over the chicken pieces.  Add the stock and saffron to the pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits in the pan.  (You should taste it at this point, and if the stock is not too salty, add salt.)

Pour the liquid over the chicken pieces.  Add the rice and distribute evenly in the liquid (note:  make sure you get all the rice submerged and there's none left sitting on the chicken, or those bits will not cook).

Cover the dish and place in the preheated oven.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.


  1. That Cuban orange plantation tale is priceless. Great story and recipe, Sheila. You're right, there's no sub for saffron, but a little goes a long way for flavor and color, well worth it.

    ~ Cleo

  2. Why not put the chicken on top, thereby guaranteeing that the rice and broth are where they belong?

  3. Sheila Connolly MainousMay 4, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    After living in Key West for many years, I make this dish quite often. Luckily, in Florida, groceries carry Arroz Con Pollo seasonings and yellow rice packets with the saffron already included.

  4. Sheila Connolly MainousMay 4, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    P.S...I loved "Buried in a Bog" and can't wait for the next in the series.