A blast from the past, aka a needed break

I have to admit, I’m pooped. I’ve overdone it yet again. I went cruh-ah-zee with it all and I’m now feeling like cartoon characters probably do when they go splat against the wall.

I literally haven’t stopped since I got back from Panama and the funeral. I hit it hard at work¬†and on the blog,¬†hurling myself at every possible distraction and project that would keep me moving. I’m like a¬†shark right now, constantly on the move, never resting,¬†always on to the next thing.¬†I don’t want this to be a woe is me post, I’m just trying to say I think I will slow it down a bit for the next few weeks. There will be posting, no worries, but I’m probably gonna mix it up a bit with new and old-er posts.

So what’s on the menu today? Well, you’re probably getting ready for the holidays. For most people that means lots of shopping, for me, its food¬†and menu planning.¬†What can I say, I love my food. So, I’m going to point you to a couple of old posts. Both of these showcase dishes¬†that¬†are ALWAYS present on a Panamanian holiday table. They also happen to be 2 of my absolute favorites. Ready?

There is ¬†Arroz con Pollo. There always is Arroz con Pollo, I think it may be a law, one I will happily and faithfully abide by.¬†When you see arroz con pollo on your plate, you know that the beautiful bright yellow rice is having a party of flavors with the chicken and the raisins and the olives and the capers and… The rice is having a really good time, trust me. Click the link for the recipe¬†and you can see the full photostream here.

Then there will be Tamales. Whether they’re filled with chicken, pork, seafood or a combination of all of those, you will find these at your Tia’s table. I love these so much, I need to make another batch. You can too, just click this link for the recipe, the food shots are here.

What is always present on your holiday table?

The Latinas in the house want… Arroz con Pollo!

¬†This is a popular one, isn’t it? It seems everyone has heard of and/or had Arroz con Pollo¬†at some¬†point in their lives. The combination of¬†rice and chicken seems to be present in most¬†every culture, which makes sense when you think about it. Generally, both of the main ingredients are fairly inexpensive. It allows a cook to feed a large number of people with a small amount of ingredients, with a dish that still looks sensational.

I’ve always loved Arroz con Pollo, I’ve had many variations of it. Some I liked, some¬†I loved, some I didn’t. Over the years I’ve perfected mine by combining the winning factors of all the good ones I’ve had. Panamanians like their arroz con pollo¬†with olives, capers and raisins. Yep, raisins. There is something really magical that happens when you have the briny flavor from the capers combined with the sweetness of the raisins.¬† The dish is still savory, but it definitely gains some significant depth because of them.

¬†It is a satisfying, easy and delicious family recipe, the kind that is prepared for special occasions.¬†I usually make a¬†large batch of it to make sure there’s enough for leftovers. By the way, it keeps getting better and better everyday after its made.

Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice)
Serves 6-8

For the chicken:
8 chicken thighs
3/4 tsp sea salt
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp black pepper
1 packet Knorr Sazón
1 large onion, roughly diced
2 cps tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cp cilantro, chopped
12 oz beer (preferably something robust like a medium lager)

For the rice:
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced
3 cps long grain rice
4 cps broth (from the chicken)or water
Sea salt to taste
2/3 cp pimento olives
3 tbsp capers
2/3 cp seedless raisins
1/2 cp peas & carrots, frozen
1/4 cp parsley, chopped

Preparing the chicken
You will need a heavy-bottom, medium to large size pan with a tight-fitting lid; the dish is pretty much cooked in a single pot. First, season the chicken with the first 4 ingredients. I prefer cooking the chicken with its skin, it adds flavor and makes the addition of oil unnecessary for this step. You can remove the skin once the chicken is cooked. If you opt to use breast instead of thigh meat, I will highly recommend keeping the skin to help keep the meat moist.

Heat the pan over medium-high heat and brown the chicken pieces in batches, if necessary. Once the chicken has been seared on both sides, remove and set aside. Remove any excess fat from the pan, leaving about 1 tbsp, but do not discard the rest, you will use it to make the rice.

Add the onions and tomatoes, scrape the drippings stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the cilantro and beer. About the beer; we generally have robust beers at home, such as Modelo, Blue Moon, Sam Adams, Grolsch. I find these are great for cooking, because they’re so flavorful. Use what you have around, just avoid anything light, if possible.

On with the cooking. Once the beer has started to boil, return the chicken pieces to the pan and make sure to add any juices that came out of the chicken. Lower the temperature to medium-low, cover with a lid and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the chicken is very tender. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the pieces and allow them to cool before removing the meat from the bone. Drain and reserve all the cooking liquid from the pan, set aside.

Preparing the rice:
Rinse the pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Add 3 tbsp of the reserved fat and saute the red pepper until tender. Remove from the oil and set aside. Rinse and drain the rice, add it to the pan, stirring to coat it with the oil. Make sure to stir continuously for about 3-4 minutes. Now add enough water or chicken broth to the reserved liquid to make 4 cps, add it to the rice, season as needed. Bring it to a boil without disturbing it.

Once the water is almost completely evaporated, reduce the temperature to low and layer the previous ingredients. First the olives and capers, then the shredded chicken and peas & carrots, finally, top with the raisins and peppers. Cover with the lid and allow the rice to cook/steam for 30 minutes.

At the end of the 30 minutes, stir the chicken and vegetables into the rice and serve.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris