Joni Woolf — Chicken, many ways: try one

Published 1:44 pm Saturday, May 5, 2018

Recently I decided to try another recipe from “Fresh Tastes From a Well-Seasoned Kitchen,” a new cookbook that Beth Alston gave to me recently (and which I have featured a couple of times in this column — it’s a good cookbook). Often, I had seen recipes in magazines and cookbooks for Arroz Con Pollo, a one-dish meal that combines chicken with rice and several other ingredients. In fact, I still had the clipped Southern Living recipe that was at least 10 years old. I had planned to prepare it one day — in the future.
The picture in the new cookbook was so appealing I decided now was the time. So, I did, and the recipe follows.

Arroz Con Pollo
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on, chicken pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 ½ cups uncooked rice
1 ¾ cups chicken broth
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 ¾ cup chopped, fresh tomatoes
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles, undrained
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
½ cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives
In a small saucepan, combine ¼ cup olive oil, garlic and salt. Cook over medium heat until the garlic starts to brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic and set aside. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel and brush the garlic-flavored oil over all sides. Place chicken pieces in glass dish large enough to hold them in one layer, cover and marinate in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a 4-to-5-quart, cooktop-to-oven baking dish (I used cast iron Dutch oven), heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken pieces on both sides; remove from skillet and place on a plate. Reduce heat to low, stir in onion and rice and cook just until the rice begins to brown. Stir in chicken broth and turmeric; cook, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Stir in tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, green chiles and reserved garlic slices. Season with salt and pepper. Place browned chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture, skin side up. Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Stir peas and olives around the chicken pieces, uncover and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

It was tasty, the flavorings quite good. I had only one complaint: the rice was too soft for my taste. I don’t care for gummy rice — I like the grains to separate a bit, and I don’t quite know how to fix this problem, since the chicken has to cook a longer time. Perhaps using brown rice, which takes longer to cook, would result in a firmer rice.
The Southern Living recipe was similar. It used more onion, a green bell pepper and only 1 tomato. It also called for a 0.28-ounce package yellow rice seasoning mix, but I think the above recipe gets the same results with the turmeric (which the cookbook author calls “the poor man’s saffron”). The Southern Living recipe also calls for cooking the chicken in the mixture for 15 minutes before adding the rice, and this would cut down on the rice’s cooking time. This may be the answer. So, next time I’ll try the Southern Living method, but with the “Fresh Tastes” ingredients.

For those watching calories, here’s a chicken recipe given me by Susan Guynn, a friend from our exercise group (Silver Sneakers), and I thank her for this occasional foray into healthy eating!

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken & Gravy Recipe Made Lighter
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5-6 oz. each, about 2 pounds total)
2 packages chicken gravy mix (she used McCormick)
1 can (10 ¾ oz.) low-fat, low-sodium cream of chicken soup (Campbell’s Healthy Request)
2 cups water
Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste
Place chicken in the slow cooker. In a bowl, mix together the dry gravy mix, soup, water and salt and pepper with a whisk until the gravy is smooth as you desire. Pour the gravy mixture over the chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for about 4 hours, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F. on an instant read meat thermometer, stuck into the center of the breasts. Serve over mashed potatoes, brown rice or toast, if desired. Serves 6. (Rice, toast, potatoes, etc. not included in points. *2 Weight Watchers SmartPoints).

Chicken is one of our most versatile meats. It is also reasonably inexpensive, and available in all grocery stores. So, pick up a package today and try one of these recipes. Trying new ones is always an adventure in cooking — and living.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at