Chicken and Rice (Arroz con Pollo)

As is often the case, I don't plan ahead for dinner. What's odd is that I cook for a living...I plan meals ahead of time all day long...plan, co-ordinate, and time. Maybe that's why at home part of my brain shuts off...done planning, I just want to cook and sip wine while I listen to NPR. Anyhow, usually the way I cook at home is to scan the fridge and freezer and make something out of it. Tonight it was chicken and rice. Almost every country has some version or another of this dish, tonight I gave it a Spanish accent.

Most chicken-and-rice dishes are simple one-pot's (almost) as easy as making rice pilaf only with more stuff in it.

The chicken that I used was (of course) frozen boneless thighs. I don't really care to thaw meat in the microwave (yes, I actually own one...but rarely use it), so I boiled it to thaw it. Boiling the chicken (poaching, really) accomplishes two things. First, it of course thaws and cooks the chicken relatively quickly. And second, the byproduct is a light broth, which can be used to cook the rice.

Anyhow this is how I did it (click on any photo for a larger view). Simmer the chicken in lightly salted water for about 1/2 hour, skimming any foam that rise to the surface.

Remove the chicken and set it aside, then strain the broth into a clean pot and keep it at a low simmer on a back burner.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, break it into smaller pieces. Heat olive oil in a skillet or medium pot. Add the chicken, a small diced onion, and a couple cloves of minced garlic ( a diced green pepper would have been great in this dish...but alas, not a pepper in the house). Cook the chicken over medium heat until it starts to brown (taking care not to burn the onion and especially the garlic). Add whatever seasoning you are using. I used pinch of crushed pepper, saffron, basil, and oregano; saute them for another minute or so (this will bring out their flavors).

At this point you can add any number of other ingredients, or just rice and broth to finish the dish. I added diced tomato, canned chickpeas that were drained and rinsed, and also (of course) some rice. There is great leeway in the amounts of most of the ingredients, except the rice and broth. For these two ingredients it has to be a ratio of 1-part rice to 2-parts broth (assuming you are using white, long grain rice...because the amount of liquid various rice absorbs varies greatly). Tonight I used 1 cup of rice. Stir all these ingredients together in "marry" their flavors and coat the rice with oil.

Next, add two cups of simmering broth, give it a quick stir (the last time you'll stir it until it's done, lest you end up with sticky rice), make sure the chicken is submerged. Lower the flame to achieve a very low simmer. Cover the pot and let it cook for 15 minutes.

Long-grain white rice generally takes about 18-20 minutes to cook. I wanted to have a little broccoli with my meal, and love these one-pot(ers), I added it to the pot when the rice was almost done. If you do not want to cook a vegetable in the dish, allow it to simmer for 18 minutes, not 15, before lifting the lid.

Anyhow, after 15 minutes I added a few broccoli florets, allowing them to just sort of float on top of the rice and steam. Cover the pan and let it simmer for another 4 minutes, then shut off the flame and allow the covered pan to sit for about 5 minutes before serving.