There are a lot of variations floating around out there for Latin American arroz con pollo—saffron, achiote paste, long-grain rice, arborio rice, peas, olives. My version, of course, is what I feel to be the best-tasting arroz con pollo for the least amount of money. No extraneous gewgaws or pricey ingredients—just a sofrito of bacon and vegetables; some oregano, cumin, chicken, rice, broth, and tomato paste; and a bottle of beer. Simple, satisfying, and one-pot. It also makes a ton, so it’s good for a crowd or potluck, or for heat-and-eat lunches throughout the week.
As below it makes 6 extremely generous servings. (If you’re being polite, you could easily stretch it to 8.)
If you have any tomatoes lying around, feel free to chop them up and toss them in with the sofrito. I had one left over from something else, so I cut it up and added it and it was great.
• 1-1 1/2 lbs. chicken thighs (can be bone-in skin-on, or boneless skinless. They can also be frozen): $2.29
• 4 large slices bacon*: 50 cents
• 1 bell pepper (green or red): 59 cents
• 1 onion, chopped: 20 cents
• 5 cloves garlic: 5 cents
• 4 T tomato paste: 30 cents
• 1 12-oz. bottle beer (a pilsner or light ale is best): $1
• 3 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock: 25 cents
• 3 cups rice (medium or long-grain is fine): 45 cents
• 1 bay leaf: 1 cent
• 2 tsp dried oregano: 5 cents
• 2 tsp ground cumin: 5 cents
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $5.76/6 = 96 cents/serving
*I usually cut the bacon before I cook it, but in this case the pan I was using was so large I found it easier to render the bacon whole. Feel free to cut it up beforehand if that’s how you roll.
Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan (12 inches or larger, that has a lid; otherwise, use a wide pot that has a lid) until crisp and fat has rendered. I had to do this over medium-low heat because my pan was so wide, but you might be able to get away with medium.
Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the onion, bell pepper, tomatoes (if using), and a pinch of salt and cook until onion is translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, bay leaf, and oregano and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and bacon cook for another couple of minutes, until starting to stick to the bottom of the pot.
Deglaze with the chicken broth/stock and beer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in the rice. Nestle the chicken (still frozen is OK)** among the rice and vegetables. I eyeballed the amount of tomato paste I used (I usually open a can into a bag and freeze it, then carve chunks off as needed), so if your liquid doesn’t look as red as this, it’s not the end of the world.
Cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.
Feel free to remove the chicken, cut it up, and stir it back into the rice, as I did this time, or serve it whole with the rice on the side.
**Alternately, you could season the chicken and brown it on each side after you remove the bacon from the pan, then return it after the rice is added. My chicken is almost always frozen, though, so I like the convenience of just throwing it in near the end.