Peruvian Chicken and Rice (Arroz Con Pollo) brings a little Peruvian soul to your table. This flavor-packed one pot meal features aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chile), and gets its signature green tint from an entire bunch of cilantro.
Something I learned when I was very young: with cooking, it doesn’t matter where you are; you can always cook. You can end up in a small village in Peru where somebody’s cooking, take a spoon and taste it, and you might not be too sure what you’re eating, but you can taste the soul in the food. That’s what is beautiful with food.
~~ Daniel Boulud
Peruvian cuisine is taking the global food scene by storm. Peruvian haute cuisine is showing up all over the U.S., Spain, London… just to name a few. Far more exciting, though, is the fact that traditional Peruvian food is becoming more available in neighborhood restaurants, and home cooks are able to find many of the pantry staples required for cooking these wonderful dishes at home. This is a cuisine “whose time has come.”
What (if anything) do you know about Peruvian cuisine? I am still learning, but I would like to share my journey with you. I cannot begin to cover it with this post. Today, I’d like to focus on the aji amarillo chile. I once heard a Peruvian say “it tastes like sunshine.” The bright yellow-orange chile tastes quite different from a poblano or Hatch green chile. While the chile can be quite hot, heat is secondary to a warm, fruity, comforting flavor. It’s ubiquitous in Peruvian cuisine, and chances are that if you’ve had Peruvian food, you’ve tasted aji amarillo.
I love the simplicity of this dish. I keep a jar of aji amarillo paste in my refrigerator, and it’s on my “well-stocked pantry checklist.” Cilantro (important in so many cuisines) is widely available, as is cumin. Other than the aji amarillo, this dish comes together with ingredients you are probably quite comfortable with and accustomed to using. Well, you may not be accustomed to cooking with beer. (I am 😉 ). If you prefer to keep it that way, feel free to substitute additional chicken broth. A traditional Peruvian arroz con pollo typically includes beer, and I like to use a black lager like Xingu.
My work flow goes like this: Pulse the cilantro with a bit of water, and set aside. Chop all the veggies. Sear the chicken in a bit of hot oil until golden brown; set it aside. Sauté the onion, garlic, cumin, and aji amarillo until the onion is translucent. Add the beer and broth, scraping to loosen the browned bits. Add the chicken back into the pan, along with the vegetables and puréed cilantro, and simmer 10-15 minutes covered. Then, add the rice and peas. Stir to work the rice down into the liquid. Replace the cover, and cook on low heat until rice is done (20 minutes). Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with additional cilantro.
Traditionally, this dish will be served with Salsa Criolla. The aji amarillo varies a bit in heat level, so you may wish to taste it before you get started. We love spicy food at Andersen casa, so we use the full 2 tablespoons of chile paste. You may want to start with less. This dish pairs really well with Brazilian Xingu, or other dark lagered beer such as a doppelbock. It also pairs well with a full-bodied white wine such as a Rhône blend or Chardonnay. I would love to hear your thoughts on this dish… Is it approachable, appealing, a dish you’ve had before, etc.!
Peruvian Chicken and Rice
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1-2 tablespoons of olive or coconut oil
- 4 boneless 16-24 ounces, skinless chicken thighs (see notes)
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic about 3 cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1-2 tablespoons aji amarillo (see notes)
- 1 cup dark beer (see notes) Xingu is perfect!
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 2 small carrots small dice
- 1 small red bell pepper small dice
- 1 cup petite peas frozen are fine
- 1 cup long grain rice basmati, jasmine, etc.
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper (see notes)
Chop the ends of the cilantro off where the leaves start. Wash well, and pat dry. In a small processor or blender, pulse the cilantro with a bit of water, and set aside.
Sear the chicken in a bit of hot oil until golden brown; set it aside.
Sauté the onion, garlic, cumin, and aji amarillo until the onion is translucent.
Add the beer and broth, scraping to loosen the browned bits.
Add the chicken back into the pan, along with the vegetables and puréed cilantro. Simmer 10-15 minutes covered.
Add the rice, peas, and salt and pepper. Stir to work the rice down into the liquid. Replace the cover, and cook on low heat until rice is done (20 minutes). Adjust seasoning, and garnish with additional cilantro.
I like boneless skinless thighs in this recipe. Bone-in are even more flavorful. Substitute your favorite. Chicken breasts might be dry.
You don't want a stout or porter in this. Really, a dark lager is ideal. A doppelbock is awesome. Any beer (other than a stout or porter) will be fine.
Seasoning is so important but very subjective! Start with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust.
Macro Nutrients (approximate from MyFitnessPal): 420 calories; 29g protein; 20g fat; 27g carbohydrates