If there is any Puerto Rican dish that I was to perfect, it is Arroz con Pollo. Arroz con Pollo isn’t just one of those dishes that you make when you can’t think of anything else to cook—although it serves well on those days— it’s one of those dishes that encapsulates Puerto Rican heritage and cuisine.
Arroz con Pollo is a one pot meal that is just that—rice with chicken—but it is also so much more than that. In it are all the spices that differentiate Puerto Rican food from any other food. You start with a base of Sofrito, a staple nearly every dish, and then proceed to throw in all the other ingredients in the caldero, including green olives stuffed with peppers, Sazon Goya, Goya Adobo, tomato sauce, bay leaves and of course the chicken and rice. Sounds simple, right? It is, but “simple” certainly does not describe its flavor. As the mixture of all those ingredients simmer together for that wondrous half hour a transformation takes place, and turns our kitchen into a room of memories, where I can recall having the dish as a child, then at my grandma’s and at my aunts’ homes.
Nothing can perk up an appetite for a meal like the smell that emanates from the caldero minutes before the Arroz con Pollo is completely cooked. In our home, we never tire of the dish, and I make it almost once a week. It took me several years to perfect the recipe, and in that time I made friends addicted to it. One friend even made a special request on her birthday: “Please cook Arroz con Pollo for me!”
What perhaps makes Arroz con Pollo such a staple in Puerto Rican cooking is the fact that the dish encapsulates Puerto Rican heritage; it contains a little bit of everything that makes us unique. Puerto Ricans are a mix of Tainos, Spaniards and Africans, and the mix results in colorful, beautiful people. Like Puerto Ricans, arroz con pollo mixes in a variety of flavors and colors, and the end result? A dish that is wonderful to look at and even more wonderful to eat.
Titi Awilda's Arroz con Pollo
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 cups of long-grain rice
1/4 cup of Sofrito or 3 tablespoons of Goya Sofrito and 3 tablespoons Goya Recaito
2 packets of Goya Sazón with culantro and achiote
Goya Adobo with pepper seasoning
1 can of Goya Alcaparrado
1 can of tomato sauce
1 ounce of olive oil
2 large bay leaves
water (as indicated below)
salt to taste
Season the chicken parts with Goya Adobo seasoning. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or stew pot, and sauté the chicken and Sofrito on medium heat for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may cover the chicken, only at this point, to help the chicken cook.
Add the tomato sauce, salt, and the bay leaf. Now, sauté the mixture for another five minutes.
Add the rice, water, Goya Alcaparrado and Goya Sazón packets (water should be just above the rice, so that the rice is loose when you stir it).
Stir occasionally until the water starts evaporating. At this point cover it until the rice is fully cooked.