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:

Yellow Rice and Peas


I promised Stacie I'd tell her about yellow rice and peas although there's really not much to tell. I buy it pre-made in the store and it makes itself in like 20 seconds. Yes, one can make their own Mexican-style saffron rice but I've never had good luck with the recipes. I think it's the turmeric. Turmeric and I do not get along.

So Vigo brand it is, Goya also makes a nice mix. For the last five minutes of cooking I throw in half a bag of frozen peas. Redman is very passionate about yellow rice and peas, it's one of his very favorite things for dinner. I love it for sheer convenience but also because it goes with just about anything: it can be the backbone of a vegetarian meal, or it cozies nicely up to roast chicken, breaded chicken, grilled fish, grilled shrimp, meat loaf, tuna cakes. It's the little black dress of your pantry.

I have a soft spot for rice and peas myself. My junior year of high school, I went for two weeks to La Rochelle, France on an exchange program. My host student was named Christophe Roland. He had a reputation as a punk and I didn't know how we were going to get along. We had zero in common yet within two days we were brother and sister. He loved American music and I spent many an hour mooching his cigarettes and translating lyrics for him.

"Listen, what is this," he said, putting on Modern English. "These words...making love to you was never second best. What does that mean?"

I gave him a look. "What does making love mean?"

"I know what making love means, stupid," he said, laughing out a cloud of smoke. "What does he mean was never second best?"

Christopher was something of a loner within the Lycée. His best friend was in his twenties and lived alone in the center of La Rochelle. Christophe took me to his apartment one night and the two young men cooked for me. I was not allowed to help. They were like Oscar and Felix. It was hilarious, and also touching, to watch them collide and bicker in the kitchen, earnestly working to make this meal. Finally they marched out, beaming, bearing grilled fish with a side dish of rice and peas. I was seventeen and felt I had arrived among the ultra hip.

That dinner was not second best.

Meatballs 3 Ways

Trader Joe's pre-cooked turkey meatballs are the bomb. I'm never without two or three bags of them in the downstairs freezer. These things have to be terrible for you, the sodium content is probably off the chart. But they are always there when I need them. And when you have four different people with four different ideas for dinner, meatballs are the common thread.

Case in point, tonight. I was wanting soup. Panda and Redman wanted yellow rice with peas. Jeeps pointed out that the bag of kale in the crisper drawer was approaching slimehood and needed to be used.

Now, watch...

One soup pot on the back burner. Olive oil. Three carrots scraped and sliced.  A can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. Half a pint of grape tomatoes.  Saute all. Add chicken broth. Chopped parsley if you have it. Lower the heat, cover and let it do its thing.

One skillet on the front burner. Olive oil. Five big cloves garlic, minced. Work it. Add half the bag of kale, toss with tongs. Cover and let wilt. Add other half. Salt and pepper. Toss. Cover and let it do its thing.

Third skillet down. Olive oil. Half the bag of pre-cooked meatballs. Brown them.

The stove now looks like this. Jeeps insisted I take the picture so I could prove I wasn't putting three different nights' dinners into one post. As if I would do such a thing.

And now (drum roll), from these three pots and one tupperware from the fridge, I give you dinner:

The kids had meatballs with their yellow rice. Jeeps constructed yellow rice, kale, and meatballs. I dropped meatballs and kale into my soup.

Everyone was happy. And personally, I think mine was best.

A Creative Use of Leftovers

Redman loves rice, all kinds. Yellow rice and peas especially. But what can you do with the rest of it two days later? Or any kind of leftover rice/pea or rice/bean dish?

You can mix 2 or 3 eggs into it, form into patties and fry them up. They go well on top of a salad, or on the side of soup. Served with steamed broccoli and fennel-celery slaw, it all makes for a very nice vegetarian meal.

Speaking of which, some of you have asked if I am striving towards more vegetarian fare. I'm not, although it is a healthier way of eating and I get a lot of good ideas from the Moosewood Cookbook, and also from Stacey Snacks, who has her Meatless Mondays. We're not shy about eating meat around here, but Jeeps and I are pretty in sync about when we need to pull back and go with the plant life. When my vegetable garden is in full swing, we definitely eat less meat.

By the way, the rice-and-pea patties were the perfect vehicle for pickled red onions. Even Pandagirl tried them in combination and liked them.