wooden spoon

wooden spoon

It all started with leftover chicken.

Going through my refrigerator looking for something quick and easy for dinner, I came upon two tender and juicy chicken thighs that were skinless but not boneless. Hmm ... what to do?

Rice is always nice and goes well with anything, I thought, and that brought to mind the infamous “I Love Lucy” episode, where Ricky decides to cook his favorite Cuban dish, arroz con pollo.

A typical storyline where a relatively practical idea goes hilariously wrong, one of the series' more memorable episodes.

If you are old enough to remember the series when it originally aired, in black and white, you were probably a fan. Silly, lovable and always true to the characters’ character, the show was a hit and, it’s still popular. Clever and well-written, late-night TV fans can often find reruns.

During the '70s, my girls loved it. Why not? The adults were goofy, loud and absolute experts at slapstick comedy.

The arroz con pollo incident involved Ricky and Fred swapping responsibilities with Lucy and Ethyl. Thinking they, their wives, had it easy, they switched roles. The gals went to work and the guys stayed home to clean and cook.

Result? The menfolk learned the ladies were not ones of leisure, particularly when it came to dinner. When Ricky fixed his favorite dish, he learned that when cooking rice, don’t figure on one pound per person and reacted in typical Ricardo fashion, “¡Ay, caramba!”

My concoction is a far cry from the traditional recipe. So, for kicks, I’m sharing both this week: my tweaked dish and an authentic version I used to make.

ARROZ CON POLLO TWEAKED

2 teaspoons cooking oil

1 tablespoon chopped celery

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 cup rice

2 cups chicken broth

1 to 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

1 to 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

lemon juice, optional

Heat oil in pot with tight-fitting lid. Sauté celery, garlic and onion until soft. Add rice and sauté until lightly browned. Add water and stir in chicken broth and grated ginger. Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down to lowest setting. Cook, without lifting lid 15 to 20 minutes. Check for doneness and if so, mix in chicken. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, if using.

AUTHENTIC ARROZ CON POLLO

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken, cut up

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 medium-sized poblanos, seeded and chopped

1 1/2 cups long grain rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 cup water

Combine garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, salt and cayenne in a plastic gallon bag. Shake until mixture is well-combined. Pat chicken dry and place in bag with spice mixture. Shake until chicken is coated. Heat oil in large, deep frying pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and brown well, about 6 minutes each side. Remove to plate.

Add onions and poblanos to pan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring until softened and fragrant but not browned. Add rice and garlic and cook until rice is a light golden color. Add stock, tomato sauce and water. Stir to combine and return chicken and any accumulated juices to pan.

Spoon rice and vegetable mixture over chicken, making sure it’s submerged. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Check after 30 minutes to see if chicken is cooked through, rice is tender and most liquid is nearly absorbed. If not, return cover, adding more stock if needed and check again after about 10 minutes. When done, remove from heat, keep covered and serve after 10 minutes.

An interesting side effect of our COVID-19 quarantine is the food. We are cooking more since we’re eating out less; we’re exploring new recipes, because we’re eating out less and growing gardens, again, we’re eating out less.

Longtime Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com.

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