There are not many recipes that were handed directly down to me from my parents or grandparents. Some were never written down. Some where and changed too much over the years as different ingredients were available. Some we all agree are fairly authentic. Some we all know are results of someone else’s personal preference interfering with authenticity but resulting in originality. Some we still stick to. Some, we don’t.
There’s an ongoing argument as to the original recipe of this family favorite. We all know it was something my Portuguese grandmother used to make quite frequently but since it never came with any real recipe there’s a grand dispute as to the origin of the recipe and how it developed over the years into the one we all love so dear. My mom swears by one version. The last time I made it with my grandma as she’d aged it was another. My sister swears by the fact that she has a third that is closest to what the memories were. My aunt and cousin feature yet another. So, today, I decided to take my knowledge of cooking, my love of Iberian ideas and put my experience cooking with grandma to the test to recreate ‘Chicken and Rice’ as I remember it using the rustic concepts that I’ve learned about the culture to this point.
A couple of notes on putting this together.
First, as I prepped the dish I used the elements that go into it to help create the stock (the skin and such from hand trimmed chicken thighs, extra bones, veggies leftovers, etc.) which I boiled out in a second stock pot while putting the dish together.
Fresh stock makes a huge difference in making a dish as opposed to water. It adds a lot of flavor, doesn’t require a lot of extra work since you can boil it out while doing other steps before having to add it. You can use boxed/canned stock or bouillon cubes just watch the salt content in them as they can be very heavy.
Second, I used a large paella style pan, although mine is not authentic by any stretch (it’s an All Clad 14″ pan). If you had something stainless or a really nice cast iron or copper one that could hold previous cooking flavors that would be even better. You want something that the rice can cook in a thin layer like a skillet or fry pan and not stacked up like in a pot.
Finally, I used all fresh. Yes, you can do the quick and dirty version using frozen aromatics, canned tomato, etc. and still get it to come out nice, as well as any large number of leftover combination, such as precooked chicken, existing saffron rice, etc. There’s also a bunch of substitutes I make note of below that provide nice variations
This dish lends itself to that kind of first dish for long leftover and throw together from existing foods you already have. I also alternate between being covered and not depending on how the cooking process feels, mostly, it is uncovered and i am adding liquids and spices slow and low, but it is quite possible to cover it and and reduce the cooking times (just ensure you reduce the temps so you don’t overcook and burn)
chicken thighs (hand trimmed with bone in is preferable, de-boned is fine, breasts or even wings in a pinch can work too)
Chourico (Portuguese Chorizo otherwise know as charise is milder than the Mexican version which can work too. Linguisa is an excellent substitute. morcela if you’re really experimental which is probably closest to what grandma would have done using liver in the recipe before we ever made it together. However, even some non-portuguese sausages can work in a pinch)
onion (yellow, but any can do)
bell pepper (red preferably, yellow or orange is ok, green if necessary)
celery (stalks and leaves)
tomato (something more delicate like Romas that you would use for sauce making is preferable, but even a beefsteak/jersey style tomato could work in a pinch)
flat leaf parsley (if using dried parsley treat more like and herb/spice below)
fresh cracked black pepper
paprika (plain is preferable, smoked adds a nice touch, ‘portuguese’ style which is similar to hungarian can be used as well just be aware of the “heat” level especially if using the piri piri)
piri piri (ground is most typical to find and is also common in thai cusine, you can replace with any dried ground spicy pepper. grandma made it with red pepper flakes once with me but most other times omitted completely. if you find it fresh or use other fresh hot peppers treat it like the above aromatics)
fresh rosemary (optional. also, if you use dried sometimes it is better to grind it rather than adding the whole, as i always hated picking out dried rosemary needles)
coriander (optional. also, i’ve definitely seen it done with steeped saffron too)
rice (white, although brown is ok, i’ve even made it with red and black rice mixes)
stock (chicken is best, though, most times i use veggie)
wine (a Portuguese sparkling white is preferred such as Lancers, although my grandma was known to use Sherry or Port as well)
large pan / skillet
Roughly chop and hold aside separately: onion, bell pepper, celery stalks, carrot, garlic, tomato
Cut the celery leaves and flat leaf parsley
Slice the Charise
Remove any excess skin, fat and bones from the chicken thighs
Rub the chicken with salt, cracked pepper and paprika as well as piri piri if desired
Preheat the skillet over high heat and coat lightly with olive oil
Cook the Meat
Add the Chicken, skin side down, to the hot oiled skillet. cook till it easily releases itself from the pan.
Flip the chicken. Add the Charise and cook until it begins to brown on one side over medium heat.
Flip only the charise and add the onion, bell pepper, celery stalks, carrot and cook over medium heat until the aeromatics are not quite tender to a fork.
Deglaze the pan with the wine.
Cook the rice
Add the rice to the pan while deglazing. Allow the wine to completely dissipate and the rice to just begin toasting.
Add the stock according to the package instructions (about 2:1 liquid to rice to start)
Bring to a boil with the bay leaf.
Reduce to a low heat simmer while adding the tomatoes. if using the rosemary, coriander or steeped saffron now is the time to add them too.
Allow the rice to cook slow and low until tender while allowing the meats to finish reaching their internal temps at an easy pace. Depending on circumstances this can be 45 minutes to an hour. Re-season and add additional liquids as necessary along the way
Near the end of the cooking add the parsley and celery leaves and ‘tuck’ them into the top layer of the rice.
Raise the heat slightly and allow the rice to form the socarrat, a crispy finish to the bottom of the pan. trust me, this is the stuff that seasoned paella and frango e arroz fans fight over. Just don’t blacken-burn it to the pan.
I didn’t really talk about it above but if you don’t think you’re getting your greens with the dish you can serve it over steamed or saute kale (or whatever dark leafy green is your preference. I only suggest kale because that’s what all my Portuguese Couvres recipes feature)