There must be something about the combination of arroz con pollo, or chicken and rice, that’s made it one of the recipes shared by almost every culture. This recipe boasts a blend of melt-in-your-mouth chicken and fluffy rice boasting an aromatic blend of Italian flavors that has the ability to please at a pot luck, fancy party or at the nightly dinner table. It’s no wonder that this Italian Chicken Bake has been a favorite in my household for years.
While you may choose to brown a cut up fryer, I have taken to using the thighs only as the baking process can have a drying effect on the white meat portions. Basmati rice, having the lowest glycemic index, is my rice of choice whether I select the white or brown variety. Another decision revolves around the tomatoes. Chopping fresh tomatoes is time-consuming, but research has shown that canned tomatoes and tomato sauces because the cans contain BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to cancer, heart disease, obesity, reproductive and sexual dysfunction, cognitive and developmental problems and more. It seems that pulsing a few tomatoes in the food processor is worth the effort.
My Italian Chicken Bake requires two skillets and a baking pan, and the patience to brown the chicken and the rice first, but after an hour and a half in the oven, marvelous smells will fill your home and bring everyone together to find out what’s for dinner.
Ingredients for First Steps:
1 cut-up roasting chicken or one large package of thighs (10 or more pieces, preferably free range)
1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil + 2 tbsp. for browning rice
1 cup basmati rice (white or brown)
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup capers
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. Mediterranean oregano
1tsp. Fennel seed
salt and pepper to taste
water to cover all ingredients in the baking pan
Ingredients for Final Step:
1 cup cooked peas, drained
1 cup sliced olives, (black for a mild flavor or Kalamata for a stronger flavor)
1 small jar pimento
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a heavy skillet, add 1/4 cup oil and over medium high heat, brown the chicken. Once browned, set aside.
3. Brown rice in two tablespoons oil over medium low heat, stirring constantly.
4. Place browned rice in a prepared baking pan or casserole dish. Arrange the chicken over the rice.
5. Cover the chicken with the chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, capers and spices.
6. Pour enough water in the pan to cover all ingredients. It is important that the rice is completely covered or it won’t cook properly and will,remain hard and crunchy.
7. Place baking dish in the oven and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until chicken and rice are tender.
8. Remove the baking pan from the oven. Cover the baked chicken and rice with the peas, pimento and olives. Bake for 15 minutes longer.
(Serves approximately 8 people.)
Note: By adding 1/2 cup sofrito to the vegetables before baking, this dish will take on a Puerto Rican flair.