Posts Tagged ‘lard


arroz con pollo

I decided to try an unorthodox method for arroz con pollo last night. I baked it in the oven instead of cooking it on the stove. I’ve said it before, but I’ve heard it a million times, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t, too: the only proper way to cook Mexican rice is to toast it, add the broth, stir once, and then leave it absolutely alone, uncovered and on the stovetop, until it is done. Never mind that this method has always left me with both burnt spots (that’s okay, those are yummy) and undercooked spots (not okay). It is the only way to do it, and all other ways are doomed to failure.

Not true. Not that I didn’t run into snags, but the finished product was nearly perfect. Check this out:

finished arroz con pollo
Isn’t that beautiful?

First snag: as the clerk at Drewe’s went to ring up my chicken thighs, I grabbed the bag and realized something was wrong. It was too squishy. “Um, are these boneless?” I asked. They were, but the clerk had the good grace to look a little abashed that he had assumed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any bone-in, so I paid up and walked home, fretting about how I was sure to overcook the boneless meat.

I set that worry aside as I put Thanksgiving’s frozen turkey carcass in a pot to simmer into stock and the freezer’s supply of leaf lard into a skillet to render. An hour or so later, those two products were put away to chill, and I was on to other things for a bit.

The lard froze in unexpectedly pretty patterns:
frozen lard

Come time to cook dinner, snag number two: I got the onion going in the cast iron skillet before I remembered I was supposed to sear the outside of the chicken. So out came another skillet, sear, sear, spatter, spatter, stick, stick. Which gave me the opportunity to deglaze that pan with stock and add the tasty browned bits to the main pan.

But first I added the garlic, then the 1.5 cups of rinsed and drained rice (to get rid of excess starch; another innovation) along with 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of comino, .25 teaspoon of cayenne, and a generous pinch of salt. When everything was toasty, I added 2.5 cups of stock (then a little more, in consideration of the boneless chicken’s tendency to dry out), and a generous squeeze of tomato paste. I stirred until the tomato paste dissolved, then nestled the chicken down in the liquid. When everything started to bubble, I threw on a lid and slid the skillet into the middle of a 350 F oven for 30 minutes.

arroz con pollo ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

Third snag: About 10 minutes into the baking, I was seized by an urgent desire to peek and see how it was doing. I resisted. J-P says good thing, because if I had done that, the spirits from the Ark of the Covenant would have flown out and melted my face off. Obviously that’s what happens when you give the rice the ojo.

I occupied myself instead by making some of the best tortillas I’ve ever made. Thinner than usual and still soft, even this morning. I’m not sure what I did, but I think I upped the baking powder (about a teaspoon for the two cups of flour; the same amount of salt would have been good, but I put in only half a teaspoon), and added what felt like a little too much water. The masa was a little stickier than I wanted to work with, but apparently that was a good thing. I also made the portions much too big at first, as evidenced by the way this one fills the pan:

tortilla como australia

It also reminds me of a poem I read once and want to track down again. I think it was in a South End Press anthology. It’s called “Tortillas como Africa” and is about, among other things, the difficulties of making round tortillas. I think mine looks like Australia, if you squint.

For some reason, everything was a little lacking in salt. I think I could have doubled all of the seasonings in the rice and it would have been fine. Next time, I also want to rub the chicken with spices before I cook it, and make sure to get a better brown on it (I was scared of overcooking, remember). And I will finish the dish on the stovetop, to make sure the bottom gets burnt for raspas. The trick is making sure everything else is cooked first, and the oven did a fine job of that.


busy kitchen

Several projects going on at once: 1. marinating pork shoulder with sesame oil, cayenne, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and salt, per J-P’s orders; 2. rendering fat from said pork shoulder; 3. parceling out fresh masa from La Palma “Mexicatessen” to see if it freezes well; 4. eating a few tortillas from said masa. Also note that we will never want for read chili flakes again:


That was the smallest bag I could find. It smells fruity and hot and delicious. I think John might be in for another housewarming present…

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