Arroz Sin Pollo

January 25, 2008 at 8:53 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Derek's faves, Grains, Mexican & S. American, My brain, Nonfiction book review, Other, Quick weeknight recipe, Tofu)

This recipe is adapted from a recipe for arroz con pollo in the book This Organic Life: Confessions of an Urban Homesteader, which tells the story of Joan Dye Gussow’s attempts to source the majority of her food out of her own back-yard garden. Some reviewers complain that the book is repetitive, lacks focus, and has an annoyingly self-righteous tone. Although it does occasionally shift into lecture mode, I found it to more memoir than diatribe.  Gussow was a nutritionist, professor, and lecturer before she retired, but this book only briefly discusses that part of her life; instead, it focuses on her life post-retirement.  It’s rare in this youth-obsessed culture  to read about a woman over 60, so I enjoyed that aspect of the book.  I realized I was really curious about what the life of a highly educated and passionate woman is like after retirement. Both I and my mother thought that This Organic Life is a fun and moving memoir. If you enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I highly recommend you pick up This Organic Life, as I enjoyed it even more than Kingsolver’s more recent veggie biopic.

Heat in a heavy 3 to 4 quart casserole:

  • 1 Tbs. oil


  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

Cook to soften but not brown. Stir in:

  • 1 Tbs. paprika
  • 1 cup tomatoes (fresh, canned, or frozen) finely chopped

Bring to a fast boil over medium heat, stirring until most of the liquid evaporates. Add:

  • 1.5 cups short-grain brown rice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 3 cups boiling water or unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1/8 tsp saffron threads, crushed
  • salt

Bring to a boil quickly, then cover tightly, reduce heat, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until rice has absorbed the liquid. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

My notes. It is essential to make sure the broth is boiling before you add it to the rice, or else the dish becomes soupy and all the liquid won’t be absorbed. Even so, I might decrease the water to 2 2/3 cups next time I make it. I used muir-glen tomatoes, and thought that 1/2 tsp. salt was not enough. Next time I’ll try 3/4 tsp instead, but this will depend on how salty your tomatoes are. The peas tend to get soft and dull colored. You can add the peas closer to the end of the cooking time to maintain their bright color and crispness, but then the flavors do not blend as well and the dish is not as coherent. I’d be curious to try adding some chickpeas to this dish, for a little extra texture, protein, and their nutty flavor.

Even minus the chicken and salt pork, this recipe makes tasty, satisfying, comfort food. paellacrop.jpgI also really like this dish because it was the first dish with saffron that I made and loved. Derek also enjoys it, and (somewhat mysteriously) swears he can taste the chicken; I think it must be the saffron he’s tasting. This is a very homey dish, but if you want to dress it up a little you can serve it paella style, in a large shallow pan with colorful roasted veggies layed out on top in a star pattern, and a head of roasted garlic in the middle, as shown on the right. Roasted cauliflower, green beans, and red bell pepper are especially nice.

Update Feb 5, 2018:

I made this recipe tonight for dinner except I used 18 ounces of already-cooked short grain brown rice. I also added 8 ounces of cubed tofu after sauteeing the onions, and around a cup of cooked chickpeas along with the peas. I used about 1/2 smoked paprika and 1/2 regular paprika. I thought it came out well, and actually it was less fussy since I didn’t have to worry about getting the rice to cook in the tomato sauce. Tasted about the same, IIRC. I used 3/4 tsp. fine salt + 1 bouillon cube. It was salty but not extremely salty.

Derek really liked it, but Alma took one bite and told me that I could have the rest (so polite, that one). But then she liked the other part of dinner (a frittata with escarole and onions and gruyere) even less, and after finishing her orange and almonds that were leftover from snack, and a square of chocolate (for dessert), she eventually did eat a bit of the rice dish (with lots of nutritional yeast on top). After two small bowls though, she asked for just plain peas, and we let her have them. She likes brown rice and peas and tomato sauce and chickpeas and tofu, so I think the main issue was the paprika and/or the saffron. New flavors + Toddlers = Ergh.

Update Dec 4, 2009:

I made this recipe again and although it came out tasty, it wasn’t quite right.  I used 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, and it wasn’t enough, at least not with my not-very-salty German diced tomatoes.   Maybe a little soy sauce would be a good addition?  With the water I added 1.5 no-salt bouillon cubes, but I’m not sure I could taste them. I added 1/2 cup of peas at the beginning and 1/2 cup after the rice was done.  I liked the mix, but I think next time I would add 3/4 cup at the beginning and 1/2 cup of peas at the end.  I measured out what I thought was 1/8 tsp. saffron but either I underestimated it or my saffron was not very good, because I couldn’t taste the saffron at all.  I used 2 Tbs. of olive oil by mistake, but it didn’t taste particularly oily.  In the end the dish was quite wet–not soupy but definitely very wet rice. I can’t decide if I like it like that.  Maybe next time I’d try 2.5 cups of water.  I also added 1/8 tsp. chipotle powder and 1 whole jalepeno pepper, but I couldn’t taste either one.  Finally, to up the protein content I added 1/2 pound of medium-firm tofu, diced.  It didn’t taste like much but I liked the textural contrast of the silky smooth tofu, and so did Derek.  I cooked the rice for 40 minutes and let it sit for another 15 afterwards, but still the rice was just a tad crunchy, maybe because of the acid from the tomatoes.

Update Dec 29, 2009:

I used 1 tsp. kosher salt this time and it was appropriately salted.  I also added 1 Tbs. of nutritional yeast  to 6 ounces of tofu (which I added along with the onions this time).  I used homemade vegetable broth and only 1 bouillon cube.  I doubled the saffron since I was using the same kind as last time.  I could taste it in the final dish this time.  I added 3/4 cup of peas at the beginning and 1/2 cup at the end, but I think next time I might do 3/4 cup and 3/4 cup.  I added a bit of minced jalepeno with the onions, and one whole chipotle chili.  I’m not sure I could taste either distinctly in the final dish, but it was quite tasty, and just a tad spicy, and maybe they contributed.  This time after 40 minutes my rice was still soup.  I think I didn’t have the heat high enough, and maybe my vegetable broth wasn’t quite boiling when I added it.  I cooked the rice for another 15 minutes, then let it sit for 10 minutes.  In the end it was quite wet but not soupy.  Derek and I both liked the dish a lot.  I also added about 2 Tbs. of pine nuts with the garlic, and although the bit of crunch was nice, I don’t think they really added all that much to the final dish.

Nutritional stats without the pine nuts and with 8 ounces tofu:

Macronutrient breakdown:  16% fat, 70% carbs, 14% protein

Serving Size: 1/6 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 284
Total Fat 5.2g
Saturated Fat 0.6g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 417mg
Carbohydrate 49.8g
Dietary Fiber 5.6g
Sugars 4g
Protein 9.8g
Vitamin A 28% Vitamin C 27%
Calcium    9% Iron 14%

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