After 41 weeks of depravity; no sushi, deli meats, coffee, alcohol, or a laundry list of other things, I was surprised that after the delivery of my son that the only thing I wanted in the entire world was my mom’s Arroz con Pollo. So it was that late at night, upon being checked out of the hospital, I sent my mom, a newly minted grandmother, to the store to make it so.
And it was soooo worth it.
I didn’t even feel guilty because it was everything I’ve ever needed. Rich and full of vitamins, flavorful and warm, I had forgotten what it was like to need my mommy, and my mommy delivered.
A couple of weeks later when I was back on my feet I realized that every version I have made has been a poor comparison to my mother’s version. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, but I knew that I had to learn how to make arroz con pollo like her because someday it would nurse my family back to health. It would cure booboos, mend broken hearts, and say, ‘I love you,’ without saying a word.
So, naturally, I asked my mom for her recipe. I got this fantastic text in response:
Great. Generations of perfecting the best arroz con pollo in the world, and it all boils down to a couple lines of text. Sigh… It’s partly my fault, I should haven’t asked via text, but still…
But then an amazing thing happened, I did exactly what the text said, and it WORKED!
Sometimes we over think things. We over complicate. We use fancy tools. We add excess. When really, sometimes the simplest answer is best.
The simplicity is why this dish works, and I recommend you share this with your family.
Arroz Con Pollo
- 1 whole Chicken, uncooked
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 cloves minced Garlic, or to taste
- 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp Oregano, or to taste
- 1 tbsp Parsley, or to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Spanish Rice (recipe here)
- Skin the chicken. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
- Sauté the chicken in the pot with the garlic and onions until the chicken is browned on top and bottom.
- Generously season the chicken with salt, pepper, oregano and parsley. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Partially cover with a lid and reduce heat to maintain a low boil. Cook until the chicken falls off the bone, flipping once, about 30 – 45 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, make the spanish rice.
- Once both are finished, add a large spoonful of rice to a bowl. Add a piece of the chicken (leg, thigh, breast, etc) to the bowl and cover generously with broth. Serve hot, with tortillas if desired.
- You could use Italian Seasoning in addition to or instead of Oregano or Parsley
- You could use chicken stock instead of water
- You could add chicken bouillon to the water for extra flavor
- You could add chopped carrots at the same time as the onions for a more American flavor
- You could remove the chicken from the pot once it is finished and debone it, then add it back to the pot. This is what I typically do.
- Store the soup and rice separately.
It’s hard to know how to help someone that isn’t feeling well. There are the obvious things like making sure they get rest, are fed and watered, and helping around the house. But then there are all those hours where they are just sleeping, looking a little pathetic, and you’re just trying not to make too much noise. I make a mean chicken noodle soup, the kind the stares a cold in the face and kicks it in the shins. But when I need a power punch, I like to turn to Avgolemono. Why? The extra protein.
Avgolemono, literally “egg and lemon,” is a Greek soup that I have found has as many variations as there are Greek mothers in the world. You could use Orzo or Rice. You could start with an entire chicken, or skip the chicken entirely and just use broth. Celery seems entirely optional. Some separate the egg whites from the yolks and whip into soft peaks before adding to the soup. Each of these special touches alter the recipe for personal taste, and are perfectly acceptable. This version is a little faster to make, but in no way lacking in flavor. It’s great for a weeknight meal and can be on the table in under an hour…just what you need when you feel the first signs of cold coming on.
Avgolemono: Greek Chicken, Egg & Lemon Soup
- Olive Oil
- 1 Celery stalk, diced
- ¼ Yellow Onion, diced
- 1 large, uncooked Chicken Breast, cubed
- 3 cups Chicken Broth
- 2 cups cooked Rice or cooked Orzo
- 2 Eggs
- 1 Lemon
- Optional: Parsley, chopped
- Salt to taste
- Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and celery until soft and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, stirring often.
- Add the rice, and enough broth to generously cover the chicken, rice and veggies. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then taste for salt.
- While the soup is simmering, aggressively beat the eggs. Slowly add the juice from the lemon to the eggs, whisking constantly.
- Temper the lemon egg mixture with the broth:
With one hand vigorously whisk the egg mixture. With the other hand, very slowly ladle broth into the eggs. This will keep your eggs from cooking too quickly and turning into scrambled eggs. Do this with 2 – 3 ladles of broth.
- Remove the soup from heat. Slowly whisk the egg mixture into the soup. Serve immediately, garnish with parsley.
I have been dying to make this recipe ever since buying The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. It was the first recipe I saw, and my mouth watered immediately. There were two obstacles, however:
- I don’t own a food processor, and
- It wasn’t spring, and therefore there were no English peas in season
Since, apparently, both of these things are still true, I took some shortcuts, but the result was still outstanding. Bright green, bursting with flavor, and delicious hot or cold.
Purée of English Pea Soup with White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Crisps
Serves 6. Recipe care of The French Laundry Cookbook
- 3 lbs English Peas, shelled (I used frozen peas in lieu of fresh)
- Vegetable Stock (high-quality, if not fresh)
- White Truffle Oil
- Parmesan Crisps (recipe here)
- Regardless of fresh or frozen peas, shock them in a bowl of ice water to bring out their bright color.
- The recipe recommends boiling 7 quarts of water, 1 cup Sugar, and 1 1/2 cups Salt. No offense to Thomas Keller, but this is way too much. You will throw away much of the water, and need the largest pot in your kitchen to contain it which will take forever to boil. Instead, fill a 4-quart pot with water, add 1/2 cup Sugar and 3/4 cup Salt, or however much water your favorite pot can hold along with salt and sugar to taste. Bring to a boil.
- Boil the peas in batches. You don’t want the want the water to stop boiling, and you don’t want to crowd the pot. Boil until tender, 10 minutes.
- While you’re waiting, put a colander into a large bowl of ice water. Once the peas are cooked through, strain the peas into another bath of ice water. If you’re doing multiple batches of peas, leave the cooked peas in here so they keep their color.
- Here’s where I skipped some steps. Because I don’t have a food processor, I just threw the peas and the vegetable stock into the blender and blended. How much vegetable stock? Just enough that the peas will blend. Taste the concoction along the way. If it’s too flavorful, add some water instead of vegetable stock. We have a “Will it blend?” blender, so it got very smooth. Had we a food processor, we’d have processed the peas, and then put the entire mush through a sieve, then blended the puré with the stock. I’m sure there’s a difference between my lazy version and Thomas Keller’s attention to detail, but mine also tasted amazing.
- At this point you can either chill the soup or heat it, as the soup will be pretty lukewarm after the boiling and then soaking in ice. I heated.
- Serve into individual bowls.
- Top with a generous drizzle of truffle oil and a Parmesan Crisp. (Thomas Keller swirled the truffle oil in, I liked it on top).
Tomato Soup for the Soul
There are few things better in this world than a late tomato harvest. Of course, by this time you’ve had all the salads, salsas and sauces you can stand, and the weather has started to turn chilly.
Enter Tomato Soup.
The last fruits of the season
First you start with some standard soup veggies; Celery, Carrots and onions. I was lacking onions so I used some shallots I had lying around. I like to sauté these in a little bacon fat with salt until they are tender, but you could use butter, olive oil or lard if you like.
While they are in the pan, peel your tomatoes, which is easier if you pop them in a pot of boiling water for 3 – 5 seconds.
Once the veggies are tender, I added the chopped tomatoes, your favorite spices (I used Italian Seasoning) and enough chicken stock to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for as long as you like, at least 20 minutes. The longer you simmer, the more the broth will reduce and thicker your soup will be. I simmered mine about 35 minutes.
Working in batches, blend the goods until smooth. Here you can add as much salt and pepper as your heart desires. White pepper will keep your soup from having spots, but I don’t mind the fresh-cracked-pepper/are-those-ants-in-your-soup look.
I like to garnish with parsley, Monkey prefers goldfish crackers. Sometimes I’ll add some shredded cheese, plain yogurt or heavy cream, which will turn the soup into a bisque. The sky is really the limit here.
Harvest Tomato Soup
Isn’t she a beauty!?!?
- 1 – 4 tbsp Bacon Grease/Olive Oil/Butter/Lard
- 1 – 3 stalks Celery, chopped
- 1 – 3 Carrots, sliced
- 1 Onion or 1 – 4 Shallots/Scallions, chopped
- 3 – 12 of your favorite Tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- Chicken Stock
- Combine onions of your choice, celery and carrots in a saucepan with oil of your choice over medium heat. Sauté until tender.
Sauté them, there veggies
- Add tomatoes, spices and enough chicken stock so all veggies are taking a bath. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes to an hour.
Boil ’em good and done!
- Working in batches, blend until smooth.
- Return soup to pot and season as desired.
- Serve and garnish with your choice of toppings.
Tomato Soup for the Soul