Often an afterthought, arroz con pollo deserves to be on the front burner
Along side tamales and maybe empanadas, arroz con pollo is one of the most beloved dishes of Latin America. Every country has a version of this chicken and seasoned rice dish. The Latino consensus is that it’s best prepared in the Caribbean, and it’s a toss up among Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic as to who does it best. In Tex-Mex cuisine, arroz con pollo is an afterthought. Chicken and rice are popular, but rice is usually a side and chicken is preferred in tacos, soups and inside enchiladas. Arroz con pollo typically isn’t in American-Mexican restaurants. And unlike its Latin American counterparts, it’s made with Mexican rice — not rice infused with saffron — and is covered with the popular Tex-Mex queso. Wherever it’s served, it’s readily devoured.
Arroz Con Pollo
For the rice:
1 cup uncooked white long grain rice
1⁄2 teaspoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons diced green chilis, canned
1 3⁄4 cup chicken broth
For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless breasts of chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon canola oil
For the Spicy Queso:
3⁄4 cup milk
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 cups shredded white cheddar or jack cheese
1-2 tablespoons of finely diced pickled jalapeños
For the rice: Combine the rice, paprika, chili powder and green chilis in a saucepan and stir to combine.
Pour chicken broth into the saucepan, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, fluff the rice with a fork.
For the chicken: Combine chicken, canola oil and seasoning in a bowl, toss to combine.
Preheat skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet. Turn the chicken as needed until cooked through.
For the queso: Whisk the milk and cornstarch together until the cornstarch dissolves. Stir in jalapeños. Heat the mixture on medium-low until it starts to thicken. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese a little at a time, until incorporated. Remove from heat.
Assembly: Place a spoonful of rice on the plate and add a spoonful of chicken. Drizzle with cheese sauce. Serve with shredded lettuce, sour cream and prepared pico de gallo.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.