As I mentioned in my black beans post, I am half Cuban, and very proud–especially of our culinary heritage! We got the best flavors from Spain, from the Caribbean, and from Africa all in one culture! It is truly delicious and if you’ve never enjoyed a Cuban dish, this is a FANTASTIC starter recipe!
As I mentioned before, my sister and her in-laws were just in town for my wedding and they treated my family to a true Cuban feast! The funny thing is I have never even had this dish before and, by-the-way…it’s not even really Cuban! It’s actually a traditional Central American dish that was enjoyed by the upper class in the colonial times. However, this dish has become very popular by Miami-based-Cubans who typically eat it for special occasions like bridal or baby showers, luncheons or other celebrations. My sister and her in-laws have had it many times and I was so happy that I would be eating it for the first time with them
When I heard what was in it (namely cheese and mayonnaise) I was very skeptical that is was going to taste like the typical, flavorful Cuban dishes I’ve known, but I was pleasantly surprised! I would best describe it as a richer version of Arroz Con Pollo (chicken and yellow rice). It takes a bit of prep time but that is typical of most Cuban dishes; it takes time to develop those flavors! I definitely suggest making this recipe for a family get-together because it feeds an army–but take my advise and make sure there are leftovers because (like all Cuban dishes) it tastes better a day later!
I have to give BIG props to my older sister who whipped this dish up surprisingly quickly and it tasted SOOOOO freaking good, we all had second and third helpings! She served it with a typical Cuban side salad (I will post that soon), fresh bread, and fried plantains! QUE RICO!
ARROZ IMPERIAL CON POLLO:
- 3 lbs. chicken breast
- 2 medium onions, 1 coarsely chopped, 1 finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp. cooking wine
- 4 cups long grain rice
- 7 tbsp. mayonnaise
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese
- 1 medium lime, juiced
- 1 can tomato sauce
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- about 3-4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- pimento peppers, for garnish
- 3 packets “Sazon” seasoning packets or 3 tsp “Bijol” seasoning (or 3 tsp paprika and 1 cylinder saffron)
- Wash chicken and place in stock pot with enough water to cover the chicken. Add 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until the meat starts to fall apart.
- Remove the chicken and reserve the broth (you will use it when you add the rice). After chicken has cooled, shred the chicken using a fork. Set aside.
- Make the “Sofrito” (see black bean recipe for more info): Set on medium heat, pour in enough EVOO to cover the bottom of your saucepan and add the chopped green peppers first. Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the onions. Continue to saute for another 5 minutes then add salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, bay leaf and garlic. Saute an additional 2-3 minutes, making sure not to burn the garlic. Your onions should be transparent. Raise your stove top temperature to high and immediately add your cooking wine.
- Add the chicken and lime juice to the Sofrito mixture and cook on high until all the alcohol in the wine burns off. Add the tomato sauce and reduce to medium heat. Set aside the chicken mixture.
- Cook the rice (you can set the rice to cook before you begin preparing the chicken mixture to reduce time): wash the rice and add 8 cups of the chicken broth water to the rice, stir. Add your seasoning (this imparts the yellow hue to the rice), my sister used about 3 packets of Sazon seasoning (I will post more about this product soon). Bring rice to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Add the mayo to the rice a little bit at a time until all incorporated and mixed well.
- Spread 1/3 of the rice mixture onto a 13x9x2 foil pan. Add a layer of the chicken mixture over the rice (use all of the chicken mixture in this layer). Add another layer of rice on top of chicken mixture and then top with 1/2 the mozzarella cheese. Add the remaining rice and then the remaining cheese over the last layer of rice.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and begin to brown.
- Garnish the completed dish with strips of pimento and sprigs of curly parsley.
This is the second in a series of Cuban recipes I will be sharing on MyMommaToldMe! I hope all of you mommas will use these recipes in your own homes and expose your children to these delicious Caribbean flavors. If you have older children, these recipes are a great way to teach your children about another country’s history through it cuisine. IF you have any questions or concerns about the recipe, please let me know and I am happy to help in any way! The next recipes I will post in this series on Cuban cooking is: Cuban side salad, Arroz con Pollo (chicken and yellow rice), fried plantains, Mojo Chicken, and Guava Chicken. So, be on the lookout and enjoy a taste of La Habana!