Let’s head to Costa Rica for the traditional recipe of arroz con pollo.
What is the origin of rice?
But before talking about arroz con pollo, let’s talk about rice and its origins. The word “rice” is originally Indian and comes from the Tamil word arisi.
Rice represents the most important cereal crop in the world and it is a staple ingredient for more than half of the world’s population. The oldest traces of rice date back to 5000 BC. They were found in China in the province of Hunan, as well as in northern India on the banks of the Ganges.
Finally, the Moors introduced rice to North Africa, Spain and Italy during the eleventh century. Meanwhile, the Turks introduced rice in the greater part of Southeast Europe and the Portuguese brought it to Guinea in the mid-fifteenth century.
On the American side, it is said that in 1696, a boat from Madagascar ran aground on the coast of South Carolina. To thank the indigenous for their assistance to repair the vessel, the captain offered a few bags of rice. This was the beginning of rice in North America. When the United States gained their independence in 1776, rice became the country’s first agricultural product export.
After this quick tour of the history of rice, let’s go back to my arroz con pollo recipe! One of the most typical dishes of Costa Rica is “arroz con…” which means “rice with…” It can be prepared with fish, shrimp, pork, or beef but most of the time, it is prepared with chicken.
What is arroz con pollo?
Regardless of the geographical location, the main ingredients are obviously chicken and rice, but the other ingredients of the preparation and the presentation vary country by country or even between regions of the same country.
How to make arroz con pollo
There are many recipes of “arroz con…” and there is one for every taste and every budget. Arroz con pollo consists mainly of cooked rice, chicken, whole or cut, vegetables, spices and condiments. In some countries or regions, the dish will be green and in others it will be red, yellow or yellow-orange depending on the ingredients and spices.
Arroz con pollo is prepared with achiote oil. If you can only find achiote (or annatto) seeds, you can still make your own oil. To make achiote oil, you just need to fry the seeds, let them macerate in the frying oil for 4 days and then filter the oil which can be consumed for a period of up to 4 months.
Pura vida to all our Costa Rican friends !
This recipe is validated by Chef Randy Siles Leandro, first Ambassador of Costa Rica’s National Plan for Sustainable and Healthy Gastronomy. Randy is the owner and creator of OS restaurant, cofounder of Autóktono and founder of Academia Artesanos de la Gastronomía in Costa Rica.
- 3 cups long rice
- 3 thighs chicken , boneless
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 2 red bell peppers , diced
- 1 stalk celery , diced
- 1 carrot , diced
- 3 scallions , diced
- 1 tomato , peeled, seeded and diced
- 4 cloves garlic , pressed
- 1 cup corn
- ½ cup peas (fresh or frozen)
- 2 tablespoons annatto oil (achiote oil)
- ½ bunch parsley , finely chopped
- ½ bunch cilantro , finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
Place chicken in a large pot and cover with 6 cups (1,5l) of cold water. Bring to a boil.
Add 1 red bell pepper, half the celery, the onion, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper.
- Cook over medium heat for 1 hour to 1½ hour.
Remove the chicken and cut it into strips. Set aside.
Drain chicken broth and set aside.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté carrot for 3 minutes.
Then add the second red bell pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the remaining celery, the scallions, tomato and finally the garlic. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Stir in achiote oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
- Add uncooked rice and stir for 2 minutes at medium heat.
Pour the reserved chicken broth over and cook over high heat until the water evaporates.
Reduce heat to low and carefully add the reserved chicken strips, corn and peas.
- Cover the pan and cook the rice for another 15 minutes.
Mix everything gently with a fork. Finally add the cilantro and parsley.