Arroz con pollo is a dish prevalent in many Latin American kitchens, and Peru is not the exception. I have seen countless versions of this entree, simply called “rice with chicken“, in Latin cookbooks, restaurants, and websites. But I have to confess that when I stumble upon non-Peruvian arroz con pollo recipes, I immediately lose interest. For me, there is one arroz con pollo, and one only: our green, cilantro-soaked rice with vegetables and aji amarillo, covered with one -or many- spoonfuls of Salsa Criolla.
Notice that I didn’t mention the chicken in the brief description above. That is because I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, and have had this dish without chicken since I can remember. The chicken is usually added to the rice preparation – to flavor it with the meat juices, I suppose- but in my house, 2 pans where always cooking on arroz con pollo days: one with chicken, and one without. Soy meat pieces were sometimes added to the one without, but even when this was not the case, my pan had nothing to envy from the other one, flavor-wise.
Arroz con pollo, and especially this veggie version, is ideal to mix and match with other flavors that you like. The strong cilantro may seem capable of overpowering any other taste, but what I have found during my many years enjoying this dish, is that it actually enhances many other flavors, and it also is enhanced by them itself. Other than the typical Salsa Criolla on top, Salsa Huancaina is another great addition you can have fun with. Put an avocado on the side, and you may also be pleasantly surprised. Which makes me think…how about stuffing some paltas rellenas with this colorful rice? I may have just come up with a recipe for another #MeatlessMonday.
- 1½ cup cilantro leaves
- 4 spinach leaves
- 2 cups white rice
- 1 cup beer (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
- ½ cup aji amarillo, diced (optional)
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 2 cups flavorful vegetable stock
- ¼ cup green peas
- ¼ cup carrots, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, in slices
- 1 cup corn (We use Peruvian Giant Corn, which you can find frozen at Latino grocery stores. If you prefer, you can use any other corn instead).
- Process the cilantro and spinach leaves in a blender with 4 tablespoons water to make a paste. You may add more water if needed. Reserve.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat, add the onion, garlic and aji amarillo, stirring for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the cilantro and spinach mixture, and fry for 5 minutes. Add rice and vegetables, stir and add beer and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low, put the lid on, and cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Stir with a kitchen fork, and turn off the heat.
- Serve with salsa criolla.