By Kim Caviness, Familia Kitchen Co-Founder & Editor in Chief
Familia Kitchen’s first-ever Your Family’s Favorite Recipe Contest: October 2020 Puerto Rican Arroz Con Pollo has a winning cocinera.
On October 1, we called for submissions for your go-to recipe for Puerto Rican Arroz Con Pollo. Three weeks later, we selected the top 3 finalists for this Boricua comfort food classic and invited all of you to vote for the plato that looked the most delicious, auténtico and gotta-cook.
And vote you did! When the voting window closed, one arroz con pollo emerged la ganadora: Recipe No. 1 — Titi Rosa’s Arroz Con Pollo, Made With Love and Pegao, submitted by Michelle Ezratty Murphy.
Cocina Talk With: Michelle Ezratty Murphy
Michelle grew up in Puerto Rico and married her Puerto Rican novio, Pat. They now live in Arizona. Michelle says she learned this arroz con pollo during their dating years, going to visit her husband’s Titi Rosa, la famosa cocinera in the family.
As Michelle told us when she submitted this arroz con pollo recipe: “No denying it, arroz con pollo is the traditional Latino version of American comfort food. My first memories of this hearty rice and chicken recipe go back to when I was dating my Puerto Rican husband. Pat would always take me to his aunt’s house in the late afternoon, where all the family would congregate. Driving up to Titi Rosa’s home, my husband would make me smile every time when he gave me a head count of who had gotten there before us, based on the cars he recognized in the driveway.”
And it’s truly deliciosa and auténtica. Felicidades Michelle and Titi Rosa!
So, as we move on to Our November 2020 Your Family’s Favorite Mexican Pozole and our December 2020 Your Family’s Favorite Dominican-Style Sancocho, we invite you to submit your go-to recipes. The prize? A trip for two home to your Latino homeland. The Familia Kitchen recipe that has the most contest votes, likes and shares by the end of each full year of recipe contests by next October 2021 will win flights and hotel for three days and two nights.
5 Questions for Michelle About Arroz Con Pollo
We asked Michelle, our Familia Kitchen contest winner, about her arroz con pollo cooking tips and secretos.
Q: What do you think makes Titi Rosa’s arroz con pollo so special? Is there one ingredient you can point to or a special technique she does?
I’d point to the importance of one key ingredient: cumin. I used to make arroz con pollo without cumin, but when I let my family in Puerto Rico know that, they scolded me! They said that no arroz con pollo recipe is made with out it. So, I’ve been using it ever since.
Q: Can you remember the first time you ate Titi Rosa’s arroz con pollo? When you first tasted it, did you know right away it was a truly special recipe?
The first time I ate Titi’s arroz con pollo recipe was probably a few weeks after meeting my husband. He invited me over to meet his family. Everyone was there … they had lots of questions, but all I cared about was the food, since my husband told me I had to try everything she was cooking that day. What made it a super-special was that it was simply made with love. You could taste it. Her recipe was as authentic as it gets, and I just remember her chicken being so tasty and moist. I was never a fan of dark thigh meat, but learned to love it in this recipe.
Q: What are 3 mistakes cocineras make when making Puerto Rican arroz con pollo and how do you recommend avoiding them?
One big mistake that I have seen people do when making arroz con pollo is not letting the chicken marinate long enough. It’s very important to get all the flavors marinated into the meat, because you essentially boil the chicken when cooking, and that can make for very bland tasting meat. Overnight is best, but 2 to 4 hours minimum should be okay.
Another mistake I see all too often is not searing the chicken (with the skin down) long enough. Go for 10 minutes each side. By searing the chicken, you are not only keeping the meat tender and juicy, but you’re also giving the skin a golden brown color. Remember, the chicken is essentially being boiled with the rice, and giving the skin a nice golden brown color, is much more esthetic and gives the finished recipe a richer color.
And No. 3, when a recipe calls for an ingredient, don’t leave it out. There is purpose for everything you put into a recipe. For instance, the pimento-stuffed olives. While they don’t really change the flavor of the arroz con pollo recipe, the olives add a little “surprise” on your fork. Some people specifically ask for an olive when serving arroz con pollo on their plate, and because there are only a few of them in the recipe, they are highly sought after.
Q: Did you switch out or update any of the steps or ingredients in Titi Rosa’s arroz con pollo?
I really haven’t changed up the recipe much since I’ve been cooking it (except adding the cumin). Actually, the one change I have made is instead of making it with sazón, I now only make it with achiote oil that I make myself. It adds a very different flavor and texture to the dish, as well as that perfect orangey-red you expect in an authentic arroz con pollo dish that you just can’t get from a seasoning packet.
Q: What’s a go-to technique you use when cooking a) anything Puerto Rican b) anything with rice?
Always use fresh oil. For instance when making tostones, fresh oil is a must. Also, when making rice dishes, like arroz con pollo, paella or even just plain arroz blanco or arroz con pork, I always add a couple tablespoons extra water and cook on the lowest temperature for an extra an 10 or 15 minutes. Steaming Puerto Rican rice is a must, and if there isn’t enough water, the rice won’t turn out plump. And finally, toward the end, if you let the rice cook a little longer and don’t stir it, you get the delicious, very-sought-after golden, crispy pegao on the bottom.
Q: What did Titi Rosa’s family say when you told them you were submitting her recipe to this website for all to see, cook and love?
Oh my goodness, they were all so excited and so proud that their recipe was going to be submitted. This recipe is a culmination of years and years of cooking by so many family members. Since this recipe posted in October, my Puerto Rican family has gotten inspired. They now send me photos of them making Puerto Rican delicacies like alcapurias, mashed plantain or yuca fritters filled with ground beef or pork.
That right there is all the love wrapped into family and food.