This is one of many recipes my Puerto Rican abuelita taught my mother to make, presumably to ensure my papa stayed madly in love (he did) and didn't miss the island too much. As with most Puerto Rican food, it is firmly rooted on the Iberian peninsula, but with certain variations; this recipe includes achiote oil for color, and a modified sofrito. Growing up, it was my family's favorite special meal for celebrations. Looking back, I see my mother was smart: the dish is so easy to make, but dresses up well.
Note: it is important to use short-grain rice, which gets a bit creamier. I use Niko-Niko, and it is fine. I do not rinse my rice, but careful not to move it around too much during the cooking process. An occasional lift-reposition always works better than a stir--andy ou want to make sure to let some stuck parts happen--the crispy-not-quite-burnt bits at the bottom of the pot ("el pegado") are a delicacy. Aprovecha! —bonbonmarie
whole chicken, cut up (I usually buy thighs and breasts).
garlic cloves, minced
extra virgen olive oil
salt pork, finely diced
cooked ham, finely diced
onion, medium, chopped
lard (or olive oil)
achiote seed, whole
short grain white rice
petit pois, canned (reserve liquid)
In This Recipe
Cut up and wash chicken, and pat dry. Set aside.
Combine the next 6 ingredients (garlic, salt, ground peppercorns, oregano, vinegar and oil), and rub into chicken. Add more oil/vinegar if needed (2:1 ratio).
Marinade for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight, refrigerated. Turn pieces over partway though marinade time.
The next day (or after chicken is done marinating), put 2T oil/lard into a heavy casserole/olla (I use a big le Creuset). Add the salt port and ham and brown, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and brown them on both sides. Don't crowd--you can do a couple of batches if necessary.
While the chicken is browning, heat the remaining 2T oil/lard in a small saucepan, add the achiote seed and cook med-low until oil is a rich orangey-red color, 5 min. Strain out the seed and reserve the oil.
Put a teakettle of water on to boil (you will need about 4 cups)
When all the chicken is browned, remove it from pot and set aside. Add the onion to the pot and saute until softened. Add the rice and the achiote oil and stir to evenly coat the rice with color. Put the chicken pieces back into the pot.
Drain the petit pois liquid into a 4c measuring cup, and add water to reach 4 cups total. Pour into the pot with the rice Add the chopped tomato, olives, raisins, capers and salt.
On med flame, cook uncovered until liquid cooks away about to the level of the other ingredients.
Lower the heat to low, stir the rice once ("lift and turn"), gently, and cover tightly. Cook 20-25 minutes, moving rice gently once during that time. Avoid stirring much once the rice is added to prevent it from becoming sticky-starchy (but do let the crusty part form at the bottom!).
Uncover pot and test the rice for tenderness. If done, add the petit pois and gently incorporate into the rice. Replace the lid for 2 minutes more.
Serve immediately, garnished with red pimiento/roasted red peppers.