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The Family Recipe That Inspires Chef Juliana Gonzalez: Her Mom’s Arroz con Pollo

Juliana arroz con pollo 5

Produced by Familia Kitchen Brand Studio for Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

This is the family-famous arroz con pollo that chef Juliana Gonzalez grew up eating in Puerto Rico. It’s the kind of food she celebrates at Caña by Juliana at the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. Her restaurant’s menu is an homage to the flavors and ingredients of her island and the Spanish Mediterranean approach she famously brings to all her cooking.

All of that was inspired by this dish—one of Puerto Rico’s comfort-food classics: rice and chicken, Boricua-style, Juliana says. ”My mom used to make the best arroz con pollo. During the week, my mom worked. So when she would cook for us, it was a little bit more basic. But on the weekends she would make arroz con pollo, with rice, beans, avocado, and tostones. I was so happy on the weekends because I was going to eat arroz con pollo.“

Juliana Gonzalez chef Fairmont
Her mom’s arroz con pollo is an enduring inspiration for chef Juliana Gonzalez of Caña by Juliana at Fairmont El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico.

Did her mother’s arroz con pollo produce pegao, that Boricua-beloved bottom layer of caramelized rice? ”Ay, que rico,” says Juliana, savoring the memory. ”You need a little bit of oil and you need a pot for that.” Juliana is referring to the designated caldero in most Puerto Rican kitchens. Cooks are OK with this one pot staying permanently blackened from pegao. This helps ensure they reliably get the delicioso, slightly scorched rice layer in authentic arroz con pollo. You can watch Juliana step-by-step making her mom’s arroz con pollo and stewed red beans here.

Family recipes like this one taught young Juliana to think to differently about food and inspired her dream to—one day—become a chef.

Juliana’s Cooking Journey and Vision for Caña

And so she did.

From her childhood days in Cabo Rojo, her hometown in western Puerto Rico, Juliana went to cooking school in Miami. She then traveled to Spain to work the line in a two Michelin-starred restaurant. Juliana returned to Florida, where she added Japanese techniques to her cooking chops at top restaurants like Nobu and Sushi Samba Dromo.

This signature trio of influences—Puerto Rican, Spanish, Japanese—can be tasted in her cooking today. Her Barceloneta in South Beach centers around Spanish Mediterranean tapas and family-style platillos. At Fairmont El San Juan Hotel, Juliana goes deep into her Boricua food roots. The invitation to launch Caña by Juliana—caña means sugar cane, the Caribbean island’s once defining crop—was a full-circle sueño come true for this Puerto Rican chef. A sampling of her dishes illuminates her fresh approach to island classics: mofongo with smoked crispy pork and pickled onions, yautía fritters with cilantro and jalapeño aioli, hummus de gandules, and bread pudding made with Barrilito rum. ”I used who I am as a background. I’m Puerto Rican and then I trained in Spain, and I mixed it up with some Japanese ingredients, which I think match perfectly with our cuisine,” she says.

Making Arroz con Pollo for Herself

These days, Juliana doesn’t make her mom’s arroz con pollo for herself too often—”I’m so busy!”—but when she craves Boricua homecooking, this is the recipe she turns to. ”I try to make it as traditional as possible, but sometimes to give the umami flavor, I use capers and anchovies,” she says. ”You mix it up in the sofrito and nobody can tell. The capers and anchovies make you want more and more.”

Yes, it does, and yes we do. The next time we’re in Puerto Rico, we plan to beeline to Caña by Juliana, her homage to the defining dishes of isla cuisine. To taste for ourselves how this arroz-con-pollo-loving Boricua is cooking her way home.

Ready to Try Chef Juliana’s Family Recipe for Arroz con Pollo?

Chef Juliana Gonzalez’s Mom’s Arroz con Pollo with Stewed Red Beans

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Juliana Gonzalez of Caña by Juliana Gonzalez, Fairmont El San Juan Hotel Cuisine: Puerto Rican
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

40

minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Sofrito
  • 1 1 yellow onion, diced

  • 1 1 cubanelle pepper or green bell pepper, diced

  • 5 5 ajíes dulces

  • 3 3 garlic clove

  • 1/2 bunch 1/2 cilantro

  • 2 leaves 2 culantro

  • For the Stewed Beans
  • 1 can 1 small red beans

  • 4 Tbsp 4 sofrito (recipe above)

  • 1 oz 1 smoked cooking ham, diced

  • 1/2 packet 1/2 sazón (or make your own: see cooking note, below)

  • 1/4 1/4 fresh cilantro, chopped

  • salt, to taste

  • For the Rice and Chicken
  • 2 cups 2 white rice, medium grain

  • 3 cups 3 water

  • 5 pieces 5 chicken thighs (or substitute with drumsticks, wings, breasts—you can mix to your taste)

  • 1 cube 1 chicken bouillon or chicken stock

  • 1 packet 1 sazón

  • salt, to taste

Directions

  • Make the Sofrito
  • Put all the sofrito ingredients in a food processor.
  • Set aside 4 Tbsp for this recipe. Reserve the rest for later use.
  • Make the Stewed Red Beans
  • In a saucepan, cook the ham for 1 minute on medium high heat
  • Add the sofrito and cook until translucent.
  • Add the sazón, beans and salt. Cook for 15 minutes on medium heat.
  • Keep warm. Add the chopped cilantro before serving.
  • Make the Rice and Chicken
  • Season the chicken. Place the chicken in a large pot on medium heat. Add a little olive oil and cook it through. Take the chicken out of the pan and reserve.
  • Add the sofrito and cook until translucent, on medium heat.
  • Add the boullion, sazon and rice. Mix everything and sear the rice.
  • Add the precooked chicken. Add the water and raise the heat to high. Let the water evaporate until it is almost dry.
  • Turn the heat to low. Cover and let the rice and chicken cook for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Serve with the stewed beans, a slice of avocado, and tostones, recommends chef Juliana Gonzalez.

Notes

  • If you want to avoid using msg, make your own sazón. Mix garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  • Juliana sometimes adds peas (fresh or frozen) during the last minutes of cooking, and garnishes the arroz con pollo with roasted red peppers.
Chef Juliana Gonzalez Caña Fairmont Hotel 2
Chef Juliana Gonzalez of Caña by Juliana at Fairmont El San Juan Hotel in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, has made a name for herself using the flavors and ingredients of her island in her cooking.
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