Thursday, May 17, 2012

Arroz con Pollo Relleno {"Stuffed" Chicken & Rice}

I know what you're thinking. I've been teasing you with snacks and appetizers for days now, and you're ready for some real food. {Put down the pitchforks, guys, it's coming!}

Today we're getting to the good stuff. The recipe that I had to finagle from Abuela, Queen of Non-Measurement Cooking.
Me: Very seriously stirring. Abuela: "Measuring" with her hand. Sigh.

Around these parts, Abuela's "Arroz Con Pollo Relleno", as she calls it {though I'm not sure that's what it is usually known as. Potato, potahto} is somewhat legendary. I have yet to meet a person who has successfully taken a bite without their eyes rolling back in their head, happy eating noises escaping their lips. Soon after, civilized bites turn into face-stuffing, and "Thisissooogoooood." is the only thing that can be heard between rice-filled forkfuls.

While Chicken & Rice is a pretty traditional Cuban dish, this particular recipe is a fancied up version that often makes an appearance at special gatherings in my family. Abuela is the only one who makes it, most likely because everyone knows that their version just wouldn't compare.

Saucy, seasoned shredded chicken is nestled between layers of savory yellow rice, making for an impressive and unique presentation.

A not-so-impressive picture... don't judge, I was hungry.

There's nothing too crazy about the technique, really... you know saute, simmer, bake, yada yada.

But here's where I'm going to ask you to stay with me {because I can already hear some of you gasping and gagging in disgust}: The whole thing is covered in a super thin layer of mayonnaise. Yes, mayonnaise. {I should probably stop saying that word, huh?}

Mayo haters - before you decide to skip this step, or scrap this recipe altogether, I must tell you that my very own husband absolutely detests mayo. At least he thinks he does. It is a condiment that is banned from our fridge, and if I ever so much as utter the word, he scrunches his face up into a look of sheer disgust.

But guess what? He could probably eat the yield of this entire recipe in one sitting, he loves it so much.

Just a lil shameless self promotion...
What? Like you don't garnish your food with your blog's initials... ;)

So... I suppose you could leave out the last part if you really, really, really think you can't mentally get past it. But Abuela includes it in her recipe, so gosh darnit, I will always make it a part of mine.

Anyway, here's the recipe {straight from the source} for a dish that will no doubt be asked for again and again by anyone lucky enough to try it.

Arroz con Pollo Relleno {Stuffed Chicken & Rice}

4 large chicken breasts, poached & shredded* in 4 cups water {broth reserved}
1 small onion, rough chopped
8 large cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
1/3 c salad olives & pimentos {I use Goya brand}, chopped
1/2 of a 15 oz can early peas {or a small can, if you find that instead}
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1b. box of Uncle Ben's rice
2 chicken boullion cubes {I used Knorr brand}
2 teaspoons bijol seasoning {yellow coloring, I use Badia brand}
1 {7 oz} can sweet red pimiento {I use Iberia brand}
1/4-1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Prepare "sofrito" - place chopped onion and garlic cloves in food processor. Pulse until most of garlic is chopped and large chunks are no longer visible. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic mixture, and chopped green pepper. Sautee, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add olives/pimentos, peas, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and shredded chicken. Stir to thoroughly combine. Simmer for 5-8 minutes, then turn down to low and and allow to sit, covered, until ready to use.

For rice - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven safe casserole or pot, bring 4 cups of chicken broth {reserved from poaching chicken, or store bought} plus 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high heat. Add boullion cubes and allow to dissolve. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, bijol seasoning {annato} and rice. Return to a boil, cover, and place in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is fully absorbed and rice is tender.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, about 20 minutes.

In a large {9x12} baking dish, layer half of rice and smooth out evenly over bottom of dish, lightly packing it down.  Pour chicken mixture over rice and smooth out in an even layer. Cover with remaining rice and pack down lightly.

Spread 1/4 cup mayonnaise in thin layer over top of rice, smoothing with an offset spatula or back of a spoon.

Garnish with sweet red pimiento in whatever design or pattern you choose. Serve hot.

*You can use the "2 forks" shredding method, but Abuela swears that shredding it by hand makes it taste better. I do what I'm told. :)


Jennifer said...

I love these group of posts! I always loved cooking with my Grandmother and still use some of her "methods." :-) Thank you for sharing Dianna!

The Kitchen Prep said...

Thank you, Jennifer! It really is a wonderful experience and makes for some great memories to cook with family members. You'll always have a little smile in your heart knowing that you're doing it the same way as your grandmother. :)

Mark Wilson said...

I enjoyed reading through your recipe and directions for creating a fun meal. My wife has several recipes from her grandmother, that include phrases like: "add a hand full of flour, and then a little more. aAdd water until it looks right."
Unquestionablly these are difficult to reproduce. I can't wait to try your Chicken and Rice.

The Kitchen Prep said...

Thanks, Mark! Recipes like the one you mentioned are the best, even though they may leave us scratching our heads and saying, "A handful? Who's hand are we talking about here?". :) I'm convinced that even if we followed them exactly, they wouldn't taste as good as we remember. That's part of the magic of cooking, I guess. Let me know how you like the Chicken & Rice!

yvette said...

I really enjoyed reading your directions. My mom used to make this dish a very long time ago and I thought I could remember how she did it but your directions are really going to help me. It looks delicious and authentic. Thanks Yvette

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