There are many versions of the popular Panamanian dish arroz con pollo, which means chicken with rice, but they all begin with sofrito, a sauteed combination of garlic, onion and bell pepper. Adapted from Cooking Light, this variation calls for hot Italian sausage to increase the meatiness of the dish, while cumin, paprika and cilantro pay homage to the dish’s roots. The inclusion of turmeric gives the rice the signature yellow hue the dish is known for, but you can also substitute ground annatto seeds to achieve the same effect without altering the flavor.
Start to Finish: Around 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
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- 2 pounds of chicken thighs and drumsticks, skinned and patted dry
- 1 pound ground hot Italian sausage
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 cups uncooked medium or long-grain white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 8-ounce can of peas
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Season the chicken liberally with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to a large, heavy pot to coat the bottom surface. Bring the pot to medium-high heat, and when the oil shimmers, add the chicken.
Saute the chicken for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, then remove it from the pot. Add the sausage to the pot and cook until it is browned, stirring frequently, around 5 minutes.
Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the pot and saute until the mixture is tender, around 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, ancho chili powder, paprika, cilantro and chicken or vegetable broth and bring the pot to a boil. Pour in the rice and stir to combine it into the mixture. Reduce the heat to medium and put a lid on the pot.
Simmer the dish, covered, for around 20 minutes. Check the rice; if more liquid is needed, add more chicken or vegetable stock. Gently stir in the peas and return the chicken to the pot at this time, nestling the thighs and drumsticks on top of the rice.
Cover and continue cooking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender and most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed. Remove the dish from the heat and serve it.
Variations and Substitutions
If you’re not a fan of hot Italian sausage, leave it out or use another meat; diced ham and ground beef are great options.
Season it to your liking. Toss in a bay leaf or two or a teaspoon of Mexican oregano to impart the dish with bold, earthy flavors. Smoked paprika contributes hints of smokiness, and a dash or two of cayenne pepper heats things up.
You can use green, yellow or orange instead of red bell peppers, and either red, yellow or white onions work beautifully. If you’re not a fan of peas, leave them out or swap them for corn or black or pinto beans instead.
Fully cook the chicken before serving it to prevent food-borne illnesses. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the center of the chicken, avoiding contact with the bone; when the internal temperature reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s done.