Arroz con Pollo (Mexican Rice with Chicken)

Keeping with the Mexican cooking theme this past weekend, I looked through a tonne of recipes to see what I could make for lunch. Mexican cuisine is very versatile and full of choices, but a lot of the dishes require ingredients that aren't easy to find in Hong Kong. The cheese and oil content in the standard recipes for quesadillas, enchiladas, and empanadas, etc. sort of scared my dieting-self, as well.

Eventually, I ran across a recipe for Pollo Encacahuatado (Chicken with Peanut Sauce). It looked fairly simple, but I was craving something that would be full of colour and flavour, and the Encacahuatado looked a little to the bland side. After more searching and looking through recommendations, though, I came across this easy to make Paella-like Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken), popular pretty much throughout Latin America, at least according to some not-very-credible sources. 

This recipe was supposedly handed down from generation to generation, so I thought, why not! It's pretty easy to make, as well, and full of the flavour I wanted, but I wish I'd used chicken thighs instead of the breast because all the frying and boiling made it more stiff and dry than I generally like my chicken. The chicken could also have been marinated with red peppers and lime for a little while for that extra kick. In fact, my experience cooking (Hong Kong) chicken pretty much always says that without marinating or stewing for hours on end, it will always come out dry and bland. The rice, on the other hand, was great, though could definitely use more spice.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red pepper
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp saffron, crushed
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
Salt to taste
  1. In a non-stick pan (with a lid), heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken (skin or presentation side down), until golden brown, for about 5 minutes. Turn, and cook the other side for 3 minutes until golden brown and the chicken is 3/4 cooked. Remove from pan and reserve.
  2. Heat 1/2 tbs oil in the pan and add onions. Cook until translucent.
  3. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant.
  4. Add tomatoes and the red bell pepper, and glaze the pan by scraping up any bits of chicken fat stuck to the bottom with the tomatoes' juices.
  5. Add cumin, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, saffron, salt, and rice. Stir them through the tomato mix.
  6. Place chicken on top of the rice and pour in two cups of chicken stock to cover the rice. Bring the pot to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. 
  7. Cover, and cook for about 45 minutes until the rice is tender. You may need to add more stock or boiling water if the rice becomes too dry before cooking thoroughly.
  8. Check that the salt is to taste and serve warm!

Let me know what you think!

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