Arroz con Pollo (y Lágrimas)

I wanted this dish to be great. This should have been great and it was so not great. Now I'm depressed.

I did it for Redman. He loves Mexican food, he loves rice and beans, he loves chicken. And I love that little boy to pieces, I don't need to explain to anyone here, this is not about sons, this is about dinner. I thought why don't I make this kid arroz con pollo? He'll love it. And I'll make it in the slow cooker, this will be a snap. A slam-dunk.

Hah, it was more like a brick.

It's my fault. I didn't think. What's going to happen when you put rice in the slow cooker for six hours, huh, smarty-pants?

Nothing attractive, I'll tell you that. It tasted all right, and Jeeps and I ate it, but the kids couldn't get past the look of it. Panda managed a few polite bites.  Redman looked at the dish and asked where the rice was. And he was right to.  It tasted fine, but, there's no nice way to say it except it looked like puke. When your dish comes out looking like barf, there's no way to rescue it. 

Even today I dissolved some of it in a lot of chicken broth and tarted it up with lime juice and cilantro, thinking it could pass for a Mexican soup.

It didn't pass.

So live and learn, y'all: NO RICE IN THE SLOW COOKER!!! 

Let me beat myself with a wire hanger and repeat that. 


I will give you the recipe now, verbatim, but note well that you should make yellow rice and peas separately, on the side, and then serve the slow-cooked chicken over the rice and it will be beautiful. A slam-dunk.

Pollo Sin Arroz

  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • Chopped cilantro or scallions
  • Frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, chopped (I used red and yellow)
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

Put the saffron in a small dish and pour the boiling water over. Set aside.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute the onon, garlic, pepper for five minutes. Add the rice and stir until well coated. Add the herbs and tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, break them up). Empty all the vegetables and rice into the slow cooker.

Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides and add to the slow cooker.

Pour the broth and reserved saffron over all. Cover and cook 6 hours on high heat. For the last 30 minutes, stir in the frozen peas.

Garnish with cilantro or scallions if desired.



And no, I'm not going to show you what it looked like. Let's just pretend it looked like this:

The Misadventures of David Crockpott

I know, I know, this thing with naming my appliances is truly weird. But after three days in the box, Dave has been broken out and put to use. What was the flagship dish?

Slow-Cooked Chicken and Vegetables, à la I Have No Freakin' Clue

I picked this dish because 1) I had all this chicken left over from when I'd made chicken chili on Sunday; and 2) I had found this selection of totally adorable baby carrots at DeCicco's. I mean, look at them, aren't they swell? 

I'm something of a carrot connoisseur. I grow tons of them in my garden and in all different colors. I was thrilled to find these. DeCicco's so has my number.

Besides the carrots, I had in the fridge some dubious-looking celery (is there any other kind?) and portobello mushrooms. In the pantry was a head of garlic and half a bag of Trader Joe's red, white and blue baby potatoes. In the freezer was a bag of Birds Eye pearl onions. I was in business.

I took a break from working around 10 and got busy.  I prepped all the veggies and fed them to Dave first - half the bag of onions, followed by celery sliced on the diagnol, leaves and all. Mushrooms and potatoes washed and quartered.  Carrots trimmed and peeled. You'll see from the picture that purple carrots are purple through-and-through, while red carrots are only red on the surface; once peeled, they will be orange so either scrub them lightly, or leave a little skin in places to get the effect.

My plan was to add a half cup of white wine and then use chicken broth to just cover the veggies.  But shame on me, no white wine in the house. So I added the juice from one lemon, and then topped it up with broth. I put some thyme and rosemary stems on top, and then sliced 4 cloves of garlic and scattered those on top too.

Then the chicken.  I had boneless, skinless breast and thigh pieces.  I put the thighs on top of the veggies as is, then quartered each breast and put that in. Then I hesitated...something was needed here...I was totally flying blind, making it up. Salt and pepper, OK, some of each. And...garlic powder?  Paprika? I already had sliced garlic down in the veggies, I didn't want to overdo it. In the end I just tapped the garlic powder and paprika bottles over the chicken, just a light dusting.

(This doesn't end well)

The cover went on, Dave got plugged in. I hit the HIGH setting for 6 hours.  Wait, that can't possibly be right. I did some quick consulting online, and selected LOW for 8 hours instead. Done, done and done. 20 minutes of prep time. I poured another cup of coffee, left the kitchen and went back to work.

I was consumed with curiosity and kept creeping upstairs to see what Dave was doing. After the fourth time, he patiently and politely told me to get lost.

What, your small appliances don't talk to you? Odd...

I managed to get lost for two whole hours, then I went upstairs to poke in there with a wooden spoon. First thing I noticed was a very intense rosemary smell, followed by the observation that the cooking liquid had not only risen considerably, but had turned purple from the carrots. I put the cover back and retreated.

Four hours into cooking, I ventured up again to peek. Not looking good. At all. Quite possibly the most unattractive thing I had ever produced in a kitchen to date. Clearly Dave hated me. Or Wolfie, in a jealous rage, had sabotaged things.

The broth looked like squid ink. The chicken pieces looked dried out. My sweet baby carrots were completely leached of color and the potatoes and mushrooms looked decidedly ill.  The dish looked ill. I was going to be ill. I would have to create a new blog category called "Kitchen Disasters" and this was going to be the first tag. I fled the kitchen, an abject failure.

(I've been taking drama lessons from Pandagirl)

I regrouped and decided that no matter what, the chicken would be salvageable. It would've been poached for eight hours in broth, veggies and aromatics, it ought to be edible, for crying out loud.

At 5:00 I declared it done and pulled the plug.

"What is that?" cried Panda with all the charming couth that ten-year-olds naturally possess.



"Army slop," I replied, and fished a piece of dark meat chicken out to taste.  It tasted wonderful. I fished a piece of white meat out. It was slightly less wonderful, but not bad. It didn't taste bad, it just looked bad. In 8 hours I had achieved tender, flavorful meat, pallid vegetables, and some killer, purplish broth.

"Are you going to blog this?" Panda asked.

"I am not only going to blog this," I answered, "I am going to save this."

I started sorting the crockpot. 

(That's the weirdest sentence I ever typed.) 

I picked out the thyme and rosemary stems. I put the chicken in one dish, all the veggies in another. I strained the broth into a clean soup pot. I put it on a medium-low flame, then peeled and sliced six new, normal orange carrots.  When the broth was boiling, the carrots went into the pot along with some of the leftover frozen pearl onions and 1/2 cup of orzo.


When the pasta was cooked and the carrots were tender, I separated three eggs and slid the yolks into the broth (my dad taught me this; he in turn learned it from the days when his mother's kosher chicken came with unfertilized eggs—the ayelekh—still inside the hen). After the yolks poached I put the chicken back in, some dill, some fresh parsley, some peas.

There you have it, the name of this recipe is now changed to:

Eight Hour Purple Chicken Soup.

Serve it with a $5 milkshake. And then go save your street cred by making dessert.