These labels conjure a lot of memories. I seldom eat Puerto Rican food now and I decided to tackle what I hoped to be a basic recipe: arroz con pollo or rice with chicken. I ate this weekly growing up, but since my grandmother spoiled me in more ways than one, I never had to do any of the cooking in my house, even as a teenager.
I e-mailed my cousin in Arizona for the recipe. She replied with excellent step-by-step instructions.The ingredients call for recao, or recaito as Goya labels it. It's a wonderful cilantro base for cooking just about anything. I thought for my first attempt, I'd take a shortcut and buy the pre-made recao. Of course, I got to the supermarket, the entire Goya aisle made me miss my grandmother so much I had dreams about her two nights straight. In my predictably emotional state I bought sofrito instead. I came home, panicked, and called my aunt. She assured me the sofrito would work just as well. She also offered this advice: coje tu tiempo y hágalo con amor; take your time and make it with love. She's a smart lady.
Ingredients & Tools
- 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 2 cups of white rice
- 5 tablespoons of recao or sofrtio
- 1 envelope of Sazón con achiote
- 4 ounces of tomato sauce
- Spanish olives - optional
- canola oil
- heavy pot with a good fitting lid
Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt. I didn't do this since I used some pre-made ingredients containing salt, but then we needed to add some at the table.
Cook the chicken over medium heat in a small amount of canola oil until no longer pink.
Roll the Goya ad! Sazón is a seasoning blend. Think of it as the Puerto Rican Mrs. Dash. Achiote is also known as annatto, coming from the seeds of the achiote tree that gives this dish its color.
Add the Sazón, sofrito or recao, and the tomato sauce. Bring this to a gentle simmer and stir frequently. At this point, as my cousin said, your house will smell amazing. It's true! It will look a bit like the start of a soup.
Add 2 cups of rice, 2 cups of water, and the drained olives. Turn the heat up to high. The rice should not be visible when it's first added. Bring it to a boil and some rice should start peeking through as the water starts to evaporates. Stir.
Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 20-30 minutes. After 15 minutes, check the water level. My cousin's advice, word for word: If the rice seems too grainy, add a small amount of water, a tablespoon at a time. If it seems mushy, cook it uncovered for the remaining time.
This tasted like home. I will be making this often.