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.
I am not sure why we have always called it Spanish Rice, when really it would be more aptly named Mexican Rice, but nomenclature aside, we have always served it as a side dish to pretty much everything at my house growing up. Fried chicken, enchiladas, lumpias, arroz con pollo, or even albondigas, you can pretty much always guarantee that there is either a fresh batch on the stove, or leftovers in the fridge.
My aunt likes to add frozen corn, peas and carrots to hers. My mom likes to use a halved onion, whereas I use chopped. My brother uses brown rice instead of white. Some use chicken bouillon, some use stock, some use water. Some use chopped tomatoes, others use tomato sauce. There are a million minute variations, but the essentials are: browning the rice, and adding a tomato-based seasoning.
- 2 tbsp oil of your choice, up to ¼ cup
- Vegetable Oil
- Olive Oil
- ½ large Yellow Onion
- chopped or peeled and halved, keeping the root intact
- 2 cups Long Grain White Rice
- 4 cups hot or boiling Liquid of your choice
- Chicken Stock
- Water with Chicken Bouillon
- Vegetable Stock
- 1 x 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Heat your choice of oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. I almost always use a combination of olive oil and lard or bacon grease, or just olive oil.
- Add onion and rice. If you are adding chopped onions, just toss them in the pan. If the onion is halved, simply place the cut-side down, directly on the pan. You want the halved onion to maintain contact with the pain, and add the rice to be added around it.
- Brown the rice. Allow the rice to brown in the pan, stirring every couple minutes until the majority of the rice is a golden color. Do not rush this step.
- Once the rice is browned, added the hot or boiling liquid of your choice and ¾ a can of tomato sauce and stir. I almost always add water and a couple heading tablespoons of chicken bouillon. If you have chicken stock, this adds a lovely flavor, but I don’t find it very cost efficient. If you’re out of both, water works fine. If you’re a vegetarian, vegetable stock is an excellent alternative. I like to add most of the can of tomato sauce, reserving a small amount as a topping once the rice is done. This is a personal decision, you can absolutely add the entire can, and even rinse the can with your liquid to be added to the pan as well. My siblings use so much tomato sauce we always end up opening an extra can anyway.
- Bring to a boil, increasing the heat if necessary. Cover. Reduce heat to low, maintaining a low simmer. Allow to cook for 30 minutes.
- Cook until all the liquid has been absorbed. If there is still liquid, cover and cook longer, checking in 5-minute increments.
- Fluff the rice with a large wooden spoon or rice paddle (like this one at Amazon) and serve hot.
- I like to serve the rice the way my grandma liked it, topped with fresh chopped tomatoes and sliced hard boiled egg
- My sister likes to serve the rice topped with extra tomato sauce, directly from the can, and cotija cheese.
- My aunt likes to add 1 cup of frozen or canned peas, carrots and corn to her rice at the same time as the water. Or some combination of these veggies.
- I usually run a teapot on the back burner while browning the rice. Since I always keep a teapot on the back burner, this creates no extra dishes, but if you are using stock, then you’ll have an extra pot.
- My mom adds minced garlic to the pan with the onions.
- My mom adds 1 green onion stock to the pan right before covering it. This creates a nice, photogenic rice, but I am not sure how much flavor it adds.
Ordering horchata is like having sex. You always order it when it’s available, you rarely regret it, sometimes you stumble upon it in strange places, and you’re always hoping it will be the best of your life, but unfortunately, it probably won’t be.
Because of its simple ingredients and time consuming process to make, I often find that corners are skipped, and sugary syrups or artificial thickening agents are added. Not that this makes bad horchata…I am just always keenly hunting for knock-your-socks-off horchata.
I started making horchata while living in Japan where it is completely unavailable. To my surprise it was both easy to make, and the homemade version surpasses most restaurant or store bought versions. It keeps well, and you most likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.
Best of all, it is highly customizable (see personalizations below). I sometimes add almonds if I have some laying around. I nearly always add a drop or two of almond extract. As for milk, we did a blind taste test of no milk, with milk, and with coconut milk. While they were all delicious, the version with milk won hands down, but coconut milk is a great vegan alternative.
The real key is patience. Some people will try to convince you that you can concoct it in an afternoon, but they are probably boring people whose favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla. In order to get a real beverage and not just flavored water, you must be patient, small fry. So, make this over the weekend and have it in your fridge all week.
Note: Don’t spend a lot of time rinsing your rice, it’s only going to sit in water for the next couple of hours. I have found the best way to rinse rice is by using nylons or a cheese cloth, or if you’ve ever lived in Japan, 1 – 2 of those sink socks.
Horchata: Mexican Rice Milk
serves 6 to 8
- 1 cup long-grain white Rice, rinsed
- 1 Cinnamon Stick, preferably Mexican, more for garnish
- 4 cups Water
- 1 cup-ish Sugar
- 1 tbsp Vanilla
secret ingredients for personalization
- ½ cup Almonds, blanched & chopped
- 1 – 3 drops Almond Extract
- 2 cups Milk or 2 cups Coconut Milk (not both)
- Combine the rice, 2 cups of water and the cinnamon stick in a sturdy blender. Pulse (don’t blend) until the rice is like coarse bird seed, but not so long it resembles sand. It will be loud. Your cat will be scared.
- Pour the mixture with the other 2 cups of water into a large (I prefer air-tight) container and let soak for 24 hours. Grab a good book. Leave it alone until tomorrow. Or, throw it in the fridge and go away for the weekend. Just don’t move on to the next step for several hours, unless you feel the need to shake it. You’re allowed to shake it if you like.
- Have you slept? Are you sure? If you haven’t slept at least once, you haven’t waited long enough. If you have, you may now return the contents to the blender. Sometimes I find there is too much water to fit everything in the blender. If so, you can do this step in batches. Blend the mixture, and this time blend like you mean it. Get angry, and pulverize the mixture until smooth.
- Strain the mixture through your best straining device. We used a a cheese cloth over a bowl, but a chinois, nylons, or fine mesh strainer all work. Some are messier than others. Get as much liquid out as you can.
- At this point I like to blend and strain again, but this is a personal preference. If you do blend it a second time, the horchata will likely get very warm, this is natural.
- Once you have reached the desired level of smoothness, you can add as much sugar as you like along with the vanilla. Start with a little and gradually add more, waiting for the sugar to dissolve completely before tasting. I usually start with 1 cup, but feel free to start with less.
- Serve over ice, with a cinnamon stick stirrer, or as our friend Chris likes it, with a shot of whiskey.
- You can add a ½ cup of almonds or other nut to the soaking rice mixture. If you do, blanched and chopped are best. In Spain they use the tigernuts…grrr!
- You can add a couple drops almond extract at the same time or in lieu of vanilla, goes especially well if you have added almonds to the soak.
- You can add milk at the same time as the vanilla if you want a creamier horchata.
- You can add coconut milk at the same time as the vanilla if you want a more tropical flavored horchata.