Home-cooked meals are irreplaceable. There’s nothing like going home for breaks and short weekend visits and your mom or dad welcoming you home with a steaming plate of yummy food.
While I may be biased, I believe there is no better food than a Peruvian dish. My parents immigrated to the states in the 80s from Peru. With my mother came along so many recipes that she would later try to teach my siblings and I how to cook.
Mind you, she never had to write them down. At times she forgets where she put her keys or if she left the stove on, but she’ll never forget the recipes her mother, my Abuelita, taught her. Like most other families, our recipes are handed down.
I have always preferred simple meals to something crazy that I can’t pronounce. Whenever I go home or when we go to Peru to visit, I feel like my Abuelita and my mom have a go-to meal they always make; Arroz con pollo. For you non-Spanish speaking readers, the meal is rice with chicken. Sounds pretty basic, but the taste is out of this world — if you make it right of course.
You’re going to start off seasoning two pounds of chicken breasts, cut into six small pieces with the skin still on, with salt and pepper. Set that aside.
In a medium-sized pot, add half a cup of canola oil and sear the chicken until golden brown for about five minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a separate bowl to use later.
In the same pot, add about two tbsp. of canola oil in order to sauté three small garlics, minced, and two medium-sized onions chopped into thin slices beforehand. My mother always says that the foundation of all her cooking is the onion and garlic cloves combination, so you cannot burn it or else you have to start all over. Sauté the combination until the onions are almost translucent.
Add one tsp. of cumin, two tsp. of salt and pepper, one and a half tsp. annatto powder and your cilantro puree. In order to create the cilantro puree, just add three tbsp. of water to a half of a bunch of cilantro and blend. Combine all of those seasonings until well mixed.
Once ingredients are mixed together, you must add eight cups of chicken stock and the chicken you cooked earlier. Let it cook for about seven minutes and then once again remove the chicken. Add four cups of long grain rice and allow it to cook for five minutes over high heat.
Add half a cup of fresh peas, a half a cup of carrots, chopped, one diced medium red bell pepper and a julienned aji amarillo. Aji amarillo is a pepper that is similar to a jalapeño. You may be able to find them in the Hispanic food section. But if you can’t, then a jalapeño will do.
Mix all of the vegetables with the broth mix, cover the pot and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add one fourth cup of lager beer and cook for another five minutes or until all the beer has soaked in.
Once the rice is fully cooked and the liquids are absorbed, season the final product with some more salt, pepper and olive oil and add your chicken. When serving the meal you can add chopped cilantro on top for decoration and some extra flavor. I also like to create an onion, lime and salt concoction that I mix in with my rice. In Peru, before everyone eats we like to say “buen provecho.” While there may be no literal translation, this two word phrase is like the sign, or almost a blessing, of commencement you receive from whoever cooked this delicious meal. So, buen provecho!