Speaking of Locrio de Pollo (Dominican Rice and Chicken), let me tell you a story…
There are some cooking disasters that nobody but us know, secrets that we’ll take to our grave as if they were bedroom secrets. Others, well, those others nobody seems to forget. My most infamous ones you ask? They seem to all involve rice.
When I was 12 years old my mother, a working mom, asked me to reheat the food every day when I arrived from school and set the table before she arrived for lunch, in those times, and this will shock kids today, there were no microwaves. Also, kids were expected to do more work at home, so stop nagging your mom about your chores.
And get off my lawn while you are it.
One day she had not had time to cook arroz blanco (white rice) and she asked me (well, more like told me) if I could do it. “Yes, of course”, after all I had seen mami cook rice hundreds of times. How hard can it be?
It all seemed easy, when the water broke the boil, I added the rice, I saw mom do that. So far so good. The water evaporated and I notice that the rice was still raw.
“Hmmm… that’s strange, perhaps I should add a little more water”. And water I add. The water evaporates again, the rice is a little soggy, but raw inside. “Maybe it needs more water”. Rinse and repeat.
At lunch time we had a pot full of a substance that resembled industrial glue in texture and appearance. It probably had the same taste.
I’ve certainly come a long way, baby.
- 4 lb [1.8 kg] of chicken cut into small pieces
- 1 cubanela (cubanelle) pepper, chopped
- 1 pinch of oregano
- 1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
- ¼ cup of celery, chopped
- ⅛ cup of halved pitted olives
- 1 sprig of fresh coriander
- ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
- 1½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
- 5 tablespoons of oil (canola, corn or peanut)
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 5 cups of water
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 1 cup of cubed auyama (West Indian pumpkin)
- 4 cups of long-grain rice
- Marinate the chicken for approximately 10 minutes in a bowl containing the cubanelle, oregano, garlic, celery, olives, coriander, thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of pepper.
- In an cast iron or aluminum pot heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, reserving 2 tablespoons for later use. Add sugar to heated oil.
- When the sugar turns dark brown, add the chicken (reserve vegetables and herbs from the marinade), being careful with splattering oil.
- Stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon as it becomes necessary.
- Lower heat to medium. Add the vegetables from the marinade, the pumpkin and the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
- Add 4½ cups of water water and bring to the boil.
- Taste the water and season with salt to taste. Add the rice and stir often to avoid excessive sticking.
- Once all the water has evaporated, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer over very low heat.
- Wait 15 minutes, uncover add the remaining oil and stir moving the rice at the bottom to the top of the pot.
- Cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Taste rice for doneness; it should be firm but tender inside.
- If necessary, cover and simmer another 5 minutes over very low heat.