Arroz con Pollo’s origins are Spanish, a paella of sorts, that was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish colonists. The dish evolved with adaptations drawn from local cuisines in western North America, the Caribbean, and Latin and South America. Today, North Americans are most familiar with Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Mexican arroz con pollo, although some of you from the US of may remember the dreaded so called “Spanish Rice” that was served up in grade school cafeterias in the 50’s and 60’s. Fortunately tastes have evolved since those days, but I have never warmed to red rice since. However Mexican arroz verde is dear to my heart. I’ve eaten it throughout Mexico where it has never failed to fulfil an ongoing quest for the next best plate of robust regional Mexican food with a bonanza of local flavours.
Arroz Verde con Pollo serves 4
As is often the case, there are several components to prepare before you assemble the dish for cooking, so I have broken the recipe down into steps.
- 4 chicken legs, skin on
- 4 chicken thighs, skin on
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- ½ cup finely chopped green onions including the green parts
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon coarsely ground toasted cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
Wash the chicken, pat dry. and set aside in a non-reactive bowl.
Combine the garlic, green onions, cilantro leaves, lime juice, salt, cumin seeds, and sugar in a mortar and pound until pulverized, adding the oil a tablespoon at a time as you work. Once the mixture is the consistency of a viscose paste, spoon the marinade over the chicken. Using your hands, massage the marinade into the chicken pieces including under the skin where possible. Press the chicken tightly together in the bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside to marinate for several hours at room temperature.
Steamed Spinach Leaves:
- 1 large bunch fresh spinach
Remove the leaves from the stems and place in a bowl of cold water. Swirl the leaves and set aside until any sand has settled to the bottom of the bowl. Transfer the leaves to a steamer set over simmering water and steam until the leaves are wilted and soft. Transfer the leaves to a blender jar and set aside to later blend with the marinade, nutmeg, and stock.
Flame Roasted Chillies:
Ideally, Mexican Poblano chillies with their distinctly smoky flavor are the best choice for this recipe. They are generally available in North and Central America. Otherwise using a combination of green bell peppers and jalapeños is the next best option, which is what I have done for this recipe as Poblano chillies are not available here in Thailand.
- 3 green Poblano chillies ( or 2 green bell peppers and 2-3 green jalapeño chillies)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Place the chillies on a rack set over a flame on your stove, or onto a preheated grill. Roast the Poblanos (or peppers and jalapeños) until the skin is blistered on all sides, turning them as they blister. When completely charred, promptly transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film, and set aside to steam until cool enough to handle comfortably. The charred skin should slip off quite easily, but don’t worry if there are some stubborn spots. A little charred skin will add a nice flavor to the finished dish. For more information on flame roasting (see here)
Once the skins have been removed, slice the chillies (green peppers if using) in half and remove all the seeds and interior membrane ribs. Then slice into thin strips (rajas) lengthwise, then in half crosswise. Place the rajas in a bowl and add the salt and oil. Toss until the salt and oil is evenly coats the rajas. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325f/170c
Equipment needed; a large deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with lid.
Assembling ingredients and cooking Arroz Verde con Pollo:
- 4 cups chicken stock heated to nearly simmering
- marinated chicken pieces
- 1 ½ cups long grain rice, rinsed until water runs clear, and drained
- 1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
Remove the chicken from the marinade, removing any excess marinade from the chicken. Pat the chicken lightly with paper towels and set aside on a plate. Transfer the marinade to the blender jar containing the steamed spinach. Add 1 cup of the stock, nutmeg,and toasted cumin seeds to the blender jar and blend until smooth. Transfer the blended liquid back into the heated stock and stir to combine and hold at a near simmer.
Add the oil to the skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When nearly smoking add some chicken pieces without crowding, skin side down, and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the chicken and brown the other side, then transfer to a plate. Add the remaining chicken pieces, brown on both sides as before and transfer to the plate.
Lower the heat to medium, remove any bits and pieces sticking to the pan and remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat/oil. Add the chopped onion and saute until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir together with the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Then add 2 cups of the hot stock spinach blend and stir to combine. Once the stock begins to simmer cook until the stock is mostly absorbed into the rice, about 10 minutes. Add another 1 ½ cups stock and simmer until the stock is just visible around the edges. Stir in the reserved pepper and jalapeño rajas, distributed evenly. Than place the reserved chicken pieces over the surface of the rice. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over the surface and cover the pan with a lid. Transfer to the oven and cook for 25 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed into the rice.
Remove from the oven and set aside covered to rest for 10 minutes and then serve, garnishing with sprigs of fresh cilantro leaves.
Note: Reserve the remaining half cup of spinach stock to add over the rice if reheating.