Arroz con Pollo y Gandules (Rice with Chicken and Gandules)
A good sofrito is the heart of Puerto Rican cooking, and rice and beans are the soul. Cooking this dish brings me back to my great grandmother’s kitchen, watching her stir while adding a little of this and a lot of that to the steaming pots on her white porcelain O’Keefe and Meritt stovetop. I spent most of my childhood sitting at the dining table covered with a plastic pink flowered eyelet tablecloth against the old paint chipped bay window. On the table, there was always the dainty yellow stained sugar bowl that looked like it had been dropped and glued back together in some places, sliced oranges, avocadoes, tomatoes, advertisements, and sometimes a bible or hair curlers. My great grandma always had the notion that I was too fat or too skinny, too quiet or too giddy, too sick or too healthy, and so on. Whatever the case was, she was determined to cure it with her food. This is also how she showed her love. She wouldn’t tell you that she loved you, but she would feed you. Out of anyone else in my life, she fed me most. In memory of my loving grandma, I put my heart and soul in this Puerto Rican dish.
- 1-1 ½ lbs chicken (I prefer boneless, skinless thighs and/or sliced breasts)
- 2 thick slices of bacon (I use Trader Joe’s apple smoked or Black Forest usually)
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 4 sofrito cubes (1 cup of sofrito)
- ½ of sliced yellow onion
- heaping tsp of capers
- 7-10 diced up Spanish olives with pimentos
- 1 tsp of achiote
- 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or fresh blended tomatoes (I used fresh tomato from our garden)
- 1 15oz. can of Goya gandules, rinsed (black beans or pinto beans work great also)
- 2 cups of rice
- chicken broth (32 oz box will be plenty- you’ll use maybe half, it depends)
In a pot, slice up the bacon and fry it on medium high heat for a few minutes on both sides. It shouldn’t cook all the way or be crispy.
Add the chicken and cook for about 5-6 minutes turning over half way.
Remove the chicken and bacon and let it sit out while you work your magic. Leave the bacon and chicken drippings in the pot.
Add the olive oil and onion slices. Stir, adjusting the heat when needed, just so nothing is burning, but the sofrito cubes are melting. There should, however, be continuous light steam coming from the pot while putting everything together.
Add the capers, olives, achiote, and tomato sauce. Stir the ingredients.
Also add a dash of salt and pepper. Continue to do this as you’re cooking.
Add the gandules and stir. Taste for needed salt/pepper before you add the meat back in.
Add back in the bacon and chicken, along with any juices left on the plate, or container you had it sitting in.
Gently stir the ingredients a few times.
Add the rice, and gently stir again making sure the rice is mixed in.
Now add the chicken broth, only to about 1 ½ to no more than 2 inches above the rice level. See my finger ruler in the picture!
Cook on high heat with the lid off until most of the broth has been absorbed.
Turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer on “low” for about 30 minutes.
After about 30 minutes, stir the rice gently a few times (do not scrape the pot!) to check the consistency. If the rice seems too mushy, turn up the heat a tad and keep cooking on the stove with the lid off until the rice is the right consistency. If the rice is too crunchy, add a little more broth and keep covered, checking every five minutes or so to see if more broth is needed. I always tend to get the right consistency using the finger ruler in the picture above.
Coating the bottom of the pot is my favorite, the pegao. This is the flavorful crunchy goodness that you can scrape off the pot and eat. This is the only part my great grandmother would enjoy. Every time she made arroz con gandules, she would serve mine on a great big plate while she sat with a big metal spoon and the entire pot!
Once you are happy with the consistency, serve your arroz con gandules with a side of tostones, and sliced tomatoes & avocados doused in my Simple Balsamic Dressing.
There are many variations on this. I often add sliced roasted bell pepper when I throw in the gandules. R, my “taste editor”, prefers this dish with pinto beans and crispy bacon bits. Instead of letting the bacon sit with the chicken, I throw it in a skillet, fry it until it’s crispy, and crunch it up. Then I add the crunched bacon pieces back in with the chicken.
Try it my way, R’s way, or put your own heart and soul into it and see what you come up with!