Chicken and Rice Spanish Style
I imagine on a Sunday afternoon when mass has let out: cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and let's not forget the grandchildren gather at grandmothers for Sunday super. Maybe a game of scrabble is on the table or in my house the beloved game of Monopoly. My children love this game. The men are sitting out in the backyard discussing politics or the score of their favorite soccer team or maybe they are taking a little afternoon nap. The aunts are caring for the children, and grandma is in the chicken chopping the vegetables, sauteing the meet. The smell of oil and onions first hits your nose and your tummy starts to rumble then next the smell of saffron hit your nose. You want to snack on something but you know that it will ruin your appetite and what is coming out of the kitchen it going to be so worth the wait. Finally grandma calls everyone to the table and placed before you is a giant plate of chicken and rice. It may seem like the most simple of dishes but there is something about this dish that makes you smile the rest of the day. The chicken is so perfectly tender that it just about melts in your mouth. The rice is cooked and seasoned to perfection. Grandma didn't make this dish in my sunny kitchen in Georgia and there were no aunts and uncles to share this dish with, but I can tell you my children licked their plates clean. Yes, you heard right I let them lick their plates because that is how good this dish is!
Spanish Style Chicken and Rice
- One whole chicken, cut into 8: two thighs, two legs and two breasts (bone in) cut in half crosswise (reserve the carcass and wings for stock)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons (total) sea or kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper or 2 sweet red peppers, seeded and sliced in 1/3-inch (1cm) strips, lengthwise
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/8 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomatoes, or 2 1/2 cups (725g) diced canned tomatoes (including their juices)
- 2 1/2 cups (625ml) water
- 1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine
- 2 cups (400g) Spanish bomba rice or short-grain (or round) rice
- 1/2 cup (80g) pitted green olives (preferably pimento-stuffed), sliced
- 3/4 cup (110g) fresh or frozen green peas
1. In a bowl, season the chicken with the oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, and black pepper. Rub it in well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. (The chicken can be seasoned a day in advance.)
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).
3. In an 8-quart Dutch oven or casserole, or paella pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken pieces in a single layer, in batches if necessary, so they aren’t crowded into the pan, until they are well browned on all sides. Once the first batch is done, transfer the chicken to a plate and brown the remaining pieces.
4. When the second batch of chicken is done, remove the pieces to a plate with the others and drain off all but 2 tablespoons of fat or oil left in the pan. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to wilt. Add the garlic, saffron (use the smaller amount if on a budget), red chile flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue cooking until the onions and peppers are wilted and soft.
5. Add the tomatoes, water, and wine to the pan. Arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side up, cover the pot tightly and bake for 30 minutes in the oven.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and add the rice, directing it in the areas in between the chicken pieces. Strew the olives over the chicken and liquid, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir gently to even out the rice in the pan. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven, add the peas, and cover. Cook until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid and it’s tender.
* While any type of rice can be used for this dish, I would suggest going the extra mile to get the spanish bomba rice. It can be found on Amazon or if you are lucky your local grocery store. The type of rice really makes this dish. This recipe came by way of David Lebovitz.