How to Season Chicken for Arroz Con Pollo

By Janet Beal

  • Overview

    Because every cook and every region of Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Latin America has individual variations, the very best arroz con pollo will depend on your judgment. What follows, therefore, is an annotated recipe to complete the first two stages all recipes share: marinating the chicken and creating its distinctively-seasoned sofrito sauce. Each step then contains a few variations, based on a wide survey of prized recipes. Your third step involves adding the rice and liquid(s) specified by your recipe and simmering until done. You can add garnishes suggested by the recipe or your own--which will make it the very best arroz con pollo ever!
  • Marinating and Seasoning

  • Step 1

    Place the chicken pieces in a bowl or sealable plastic bag. Add marinade ingredients, reserving 3 tsp/1 tbsp. of sweet paprika for the next step (put just 1 tsp. in the marinade) and hold out olive oil to brown chicken. Variations: Some recipes specify additional acidity in the marinade. If you would like a bit more bite to the flavor, add 1 tbsp. cider vinegar to your ingredients. A slightly more tropical flavor can be obtained by adding juice of a different citrus fruit--lemon, lime, or orange.
  • Step 2

    Seal or cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
  • Step 3

    Remove chicken parts from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Place 3 tbsp. olive oil in skillet or dutch oven. Brown the chicken pieces, turning frequently to brown all surfaces.
  • Step 4

    Set the browned chicken parts on a platter. Pour the off oil carefully and scrape the brown bits remaining in skillet on top of chicken. Refrigerate partly-cooked chicken and add 2 tbsp. olive oil to pan, to make sofrito.


  • Making Sofrito

    • Step 1

      Add minced garlic, chopped onion and chopped peppers to the oil. Cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften. Stir frequently with wooden spoon to prevent sticking or scorching.
    • Step 2

      Add cilantro and continue to cook until the cilantro is thoroughly wilted (if fresh) or incorporated (if dried). Add the reserved tbsp. of sweet paprika and tomato sauce or chopped fresh tomato. Variations: Homemade sofrito is frequently used in Latin cooking. Using a separate pan, double or triple quantities. Scoop out 2 to 3 cups for your arroz and freeze the remainder in 1 cup containers for future use. Fresh cilantro also freezes well. Buy it at bargain prices, chop leaves and stems and freeze in small plastic bags.
    • Step 3

      Simmer the sauce 5 to 10 minutes over low heat. Taste and add salt if desired.
    • Step 4

      Place the chicken (and brown bits and any chicken juices that have accumulated on the plate) in skillet with sofrito. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes. Your chicken is not yet fully cooked, so do not taste again at this point.
  • Putting the Dish Together

    • Step 1

      Add rice and chicken broth to meat and vegetable mixture. Add saffron threads or anatto oil, if specified by your recipe. Stir, cover and cook over medium heat until done (approximately 30 to 40 minutes). Some recipes, especially from Puerto Rico, add beer to the cooking broth--and they add it at different times. Follow the directions specific to your recipe.
    • Step 2

      Add any optional/authentic/fun garnishes included in your recipe: green peas, additional red pepper strips, capers, green olives. Simmer just long enough to heat them. Your dish is complete--serve it forth!
    • Step 3

      Think about any changes you would like to make next time and write them on your recipe. Arroz con pollo can be regarded as the Latin equivalent to beef stew or meatloaf--everyone adds a little special something to make this traditional dish his/her very own. Experienced cooks argue about saffron--always, never--tomatoes or tomato sauce--yes, no, or maybe. Some cooks add a little chopped bacon or ham to the sofrito. Some add it as a garnish. Your secret may be adding chipotle peppers; one recipe surveyed substituted asparagus tips for peas. If it looks good and it tastes good, try it next time.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Ingredients:
    • 1 3-lb. whole chicken, cut in 8 pieces or 8 chicken thighs, skin-on
    • Glass bowl or sealable plastic bag
    • Plate or pan
    • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano or 3 sprigs fresh oregano
    • OR same quantities of dried/fresh thyme
    • 4 tsp. sweet paprika (divided) OR 1 tsp. chili powder and 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika
    • 1 large bay leaf
    • 3 tbsp. olive oil
    • SOFRITO INGREDIENTS:
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 large onion, chopped fine
    • 1 large green pepper, chopped fine
    • 1 large red pepper, chopped fine
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped fine OR 1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
    • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce OR 1 cup chopped fresh Tomato
    • Salt
    • Heavy skillet or dutch oven, with cover
    • Knife and cutting board
    • Tongs or fork to manage chicken parts
    • Wooden spoon
    • Rice
    • Saffron threads or annato oil
    • Chicken broth OR a combination of chicken broth and beer
    • Peas
    • Red pepper strips
    • Capers
    • Chopped green olives
    • Warning:
    • While you can taste any portion of the dish--the marinade, the sofrito--do so before you add raw or partially cooked chicken. Final tasting and correction of seasonings needs to wait until chicken is fully cooked.

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