As we continue to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic men and women to American society in this Hispanic Heritage Month, one of the things that come to mind is the tasty and diverse Latino cuisine.
Each country has its own unique dishes, typically made with indigenous ingredients. But even with all the diversity, there is one dish that transcends all countries and is a familiar item throughout Central and South America — Arroz con Pollo.
Arroz con Pollo, or chicken with rice, is a dish that has very similar roots to the Spaniard Paella. Put it simply, it is seared chicken, cooked with rice that is mixed and seasoned with different vegetables.
Although it is made in almost every Latin country, each one has their own version of this popular dish. Mexicans season it using chili or chili powders. Colombians use ‘sofrito,’ which is a flavorful sauce using vegetables and seasonings like tomato and saffron, to add flavor to the rice. Nicaraguans use a combination of olives, sausage and ketchup to bring a different sabor and color to this iconic dish.
I learned how to make this dish when I moved to the United States from Peru 27 years ago.
Peruvian Arroz con Pollo uses a special combination of cilantro and dark beer. The cilantro is pureed with chicken broth and used to cook the rice, which allows the dish to really absorb the full flavor, and health benefits, of this superfood. Meanwhile, the beer adds a slightly toasty note with a denser texture.
As a registered dietitian, making this dish with whole ingredients like bell peppers, choclo (big corn) and peas, allows me to appreciate the nutritional value of this dish. It is also important to know what oil to use when cooking, especially if it can give it an extra boost of nutrition. I like to use canola oil because it is one of the healthiest oils in the world with the least amount of saturated fat, has the most omega-3 fat of any cooking oil and it can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, its neutral taste and light texture allows Latin flavors to shine through this dish.
Arroz con Pollo a la Peruvian
2 tablespoon canola oil
1 whole chicken, preferably deboned and skin removed
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons aji amarillo or other chili paste
2 cups rice
1 cup dark beer
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup carrots, sliced and quartered
1 cup choclo or frozen corn
1 medium bell pepper, julienne
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1. Debone and remove the skin from the whole chicken. Make sure to cut the chicken breast in half. In total, you should have six pieces which include two drumsticks, two thighs and four chicken breasts. Wings are optional to keep.
2. Heat up a large, high sided skillet on medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and heat it up for about one minute. Add the chicken and cook for about 5-7 minutes on each side, or until it begins to get a good sear. Remove chicken and set aside.
3. While the chicken is browning, add the cilantro and chicken stock in a food processor and puree until the cilantro is well blended. Set aside.
4. In the same skillet, add the onion and cook for one minute. Then add the garlic and aji amarillo, and cook for an additional two minutes.
5. Add the rice to the pot and stir around. Then add the cilantro mixture, beer, peas, carrots, choclo, bell pepper, salt, black pepper and cumin. Stir, bring to a boil and reduce to medium temperature. Add the chicken back into the skillet and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until rice is cooked.
Serving Size: 1 ½ cups
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of three books, Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes and his newest book, Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss.