Arroz con Pollo, or Chicken with Rice, is a common dish among most Spanish speaking cultures. Obviously all of them include rice and chicken, after that, the variations are endless. It really is a versatile dish and once you have the flavorful base down, you can add really anything you want from peas to asparagus to olives. What sets Cuban (and Puerto Rican) Arroz con Pollo aside from those in other countries is the use of beer. My husband’s great grandmother used a mixture of half beer and half water with chicken bullion, which is how I like it. Some recipes call for tomato sauce, but I left this out not only because I think it isn’t needed and it helps to keep from getting the dreaded Instant Pot BURN notice.
Another ingredient that sets this Cuban dish apart is the use of Bijol. Bijol is also known as achiote or annatto and is used in many Latin American cuisine. It’s a vibrant red seed that when ground into a powder can be a cheap replacement for saffron and is what many Cubans use to get the reddish yellow color in dishes like Arroz con Pollo. This is a great ingredient for the home cook because a can of Bijol costs $3.99 compared to 4 grams of saffron that can cost almost $20.00. You can get this in most Latin sections of the supermarket or order this online through Amazon. However, if you can’t get this, you can substitute saffron or even leave it out if you use Sazon with Asafran. If you just use the Sazon, it won’t have as deep a yellow color, but it will still taste just as good.
Instant Pot Cuban Chicken and Rice ( Arroz con Pollo)
Recipe by Lana Horruitiner-Perez and Daniel Perez
6 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (You can use chicken breast, but the thighs are much less prone to drying out and much cheaper)
1 tsp plus 1 TBL Salt
2 TBL Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion, chopped fine
1 Green Pepper, chopped fine
4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 4 oz jar of minced Pimentos
1 1/2 cups Beer ( You can use whatever beer you have on hand. However, if you don;t have beer you can use white wine. If you use wine only use 3/4 cups of wine and 2 1/4 cups water.)
1 1/2 cups Water
1 Chicken Bullion
2 packets Sazon con Asafran
1/2 tsp Bijol
1 tsp Cumin
3 cups of White Rice, quickly rinsed
2 Bay Leaves
*You can add peas, olives, asparagus tips, etc. to this dish if you like. Add these at the end of the cooking process if they just need to be warmed through. If using canned veggies, drain first.
-Cut the 6 Chicken Thighs into 1 inch pieces and add to a bowl. Season the chicken with 1 tsp salt and some ground pepper and mix. Set aside.
-Before you start cooking, mix together 1 1/2 cups beer with 1 1/2 cups water. Add the Chicken Bullion and dissolve in the liquid mixture. (You can use cube bullion or powdered or Better Than Bullion. However, if you do not have any of these you can substitute the water with Chicken Broth.) Add 1/2 tsp of Bijol, 1 tsp Cumin, and the 2 packets of Sazon con Asafran. Mix. Set this aside.
-Add 2 TBL of Olive Oil to Instant Pot and press “SAUTE”. When the oil gets hot add 1/2 of the Chicken and brown on all sides. You do not need to cook the chicken through. You are just trying to get some color on the chicken. Once the first batch of chicken is lightly browned, remove it and add the second batch. If you think the pot is dry, you can add a little extra oil. Once the second batch is browned, remove and set aside.
– Add the chopped Yellow Onion and Green Pepper to the pot and stir, scraping up the browned bits from the chicken. Saute the onion and peppers until they start to get soft and translucent. This might take about 5 minutes. Make sure to stir to keep the veggies from burning.
-Once the onion and peppers are soft, add the mince Garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
-Now add a 1/2 cup of the liquid mixture to the pot and use a spatula to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. This is the most important part of the recipe because if there are any browned bits left on the bottom you will get a “BURN” notice.
-Add the rest of the liquid to the pot along with the jar of Pimentos including the liquid and 3 cups of White Rice. Mix. Add the 2 Bay Leaves and then add the chicken and whatever juices accumulated in the bowl, on top of the rice. Do not mix the chicken, just allow the chicken pieces to lay on top of the rice. Do try and make sure the chicken is covered and in a single layer.
-Lock the Instant Pot lid into place and make sure the valve is set to Sealed. Pressure cook on High for 10 mins and the allow the NPR for 15 mins. Release the rest of the pressure.
-Fluff the rice gently with a fork. Add salt if needed. Enjoy!