Chicken and Rice or Arroz con Pollo or how to make a chicken happy

Get your grandma apron on, think nice thoughts and pull the chicken parts out of the fridge. Don’t worry about having to cut up a whole chicken; they do it really well at the butcher. Nobody in my family likes anything but the breast anyways.  Don’t go buying those skinny little flavorless chicken papers called cutlets though. Cutlets or anything without a bone is meant to help you in the time department, and will get you nowhere fast in the flavor department.

Get out a big skillet. Heat up your best olive oil and then add about three whole cloves of peeled garlic (not from a jar, just smash the clove lightly with the flat side of your knife to release the paper) and wait for them to get beautiful and golden. Remove them from the pan. Season 4 breast halves with skin on and bone in with kosher salt. Add them to the hot pan, skin side down and DO NOT DISTURB. Don’t poke them, push them or flip them for at least two minutes. Your heat should medium/high, and the chicken shouldn’t be making so much noise that you couldn’t have a reasonable conversation going without yelling. When you see that the skin is going a chestnut color, remove them from the pan, set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and a few sprigs of fresh parsley, and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. When the herbs are crisp but not brown, add one diced onion, and two diced red peppers. Stir around with salt and a few red pepper flakes (or more if you like the heat). The onion should be soft and completely cooked through and when you taste it, if you say YES!, because it tastes so good, then it’s done. The pepper, the same.

Now I know that this next step goes against all common knowledge, but I like to roast the chicken breast in the oven at 400 degrees until it is almost done. While this is happening, add a can of crushed tomatoes to the onion mixture, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, 1 1/2 cups of white wine (white wine that you would enjoy drinking), a bay leaf, a pinch of saffron, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes to reduce it a little bit.

At this point, the chicken should be almost done; nearly cooked through, but not quite. This is when you want to take it out. Remove it from the bones, reserve the meat, and add a few of the larger bones to the sauce. Add 2 cups of rice and cover. Turn the heat down to low and cook until the rice would be done in about another two minutes. Remove the bones and throw them away.   Taste everything for salt and black pepper. Add a few tablespoons of rinsed capers, a cup of frozen peas and 1/2 cup of green olives with the pit. Fold everything into the rice with a rubber spatula, without over stirring. Lay the four breast halves on top of the rice.  Cover the pot and let sit over a very low flame for about 1 to 2 minutes until both the chicken and rice are done.  Remove the chicken, shred, and fold into the rice.
Serve with flour tortillas that have been covered with cheddar cheese and sprinkled with sliced jalapeno, then folded in half and finished in the oven to melt the cheese. A salad with cubed mango, avocado, red onion, romaine and pepitas is great with olive oil, and fresh lime juice as the dressing.

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