Monday, December 13, 2010

Adobo Seasoned Chicken and Rice

A good friend of mine recently bought me a copy of Bobby Flay's wonderful new cookbook, Bobby Flay's Throwdown, and I could not wait to crack this puppy open and start cooking from it. If for some reason you're not familiar with Bobby Flay's Food Network show of the same name, here's a quick rundown. Iron Chef Bobby Flay travels all over the country, challenging unsuspecting cooks to make their signature dish while he cooks his own version of the same dish. Then, after both sides have prepared their dishes, the lucky crowd who has been watching it all take place get to sample all the delicious food. At the end of each episode, the dishes are judged and a winner of the throwdown is declared. It's all very entertaining, and almost every single time both dishes sound amazing. Honestly, I don't know how it's not a tie each time!

So, I started out by making Bobby's chicken wings, but they disappeared before I even had a chance to blog about them. They were pretty darn tasty, so I was eager to try something else. Next up was Bobby's Adobo Seasoned Chicken and Rice. This dish was up against a more traditional Arroz con Pollo (chicken and rice) on the show, and even though Bobby's take on it did not win, we thought it was truly divine in its own right.

I think the secret to the whole thing is his adobo seasoning. A flavorful blend of spices is rubbed into the chicken before you brown all the pieces in a Dutch oven. You finish baking off the chicken in the oven, and then you start making the rice in the Dutch oven. The flavor left behind in the pot becomes part of the rice mixture, and just simmers away and gets all deeply ingrained in all the veggies and the rice. It's magical. Then you stir in some peas and allow the rice to finish cooking. Towards the end, you add in olives (Bobby threw in some fresh cilantro and parsley, too, but I didn't have any that day) and freshly squeezed lemon juice (Bobby had a lime; I did not!), and finally the chicken goes back in, now that it has fully cooked in the oven.

Boy, did we love this dish! To me, it bore a strong resemblance to paella, which is a dish I have made several times. However, this one is a bit simpler, and packs a sneaky punch. It's got all these layers of flavor; the flavor of the chicken itself, the flavor the chicken imparts on the rice, the flavor of all the different veggies, and then that salty kick from the olives. Plus, it was so homey and comforting on a chilly evening. I don't know what the winning dish on this episode of Throwdown tasted like, but I can tell you that this one totally deserves the crown. Don't take my word for it, though. I think you should try it yourself!

Adobo Seasoned Chicken and Rice
adapted from the Food Network
makes about 8 servings

2 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. granulated onion
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
4 chicken thighs, with skin, cut in 1/2
4 chicken breasts, with skin, cut in 1/2 lengthwise
5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
1 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (Bobby used a serrano)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted in warm water (Bobby used 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups long-grain rice (we used 1 cup)
4 3/4 cups chicken stock (we used 2 cups)
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives (Bobby used a combination of green olives and picholine olives, but I don't even know what a picholine olive is!)
Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the first 8 ingredients (salt through oregano) in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then season with the mixture in the bowl.

2. Heat 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Saute the chicken pieces in batches, skin side down, until golden brown. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown. Remove the chicken to a baking sheet and put into the preheated oven for 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil back over the heat, turning down to medium-high. Saute the onion and peppers for about 3 minutes, until soft. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

4. Add the rice to the pot and cook for a minute, stirring to combine with the vegetables. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, add the peas to the pot, then replace the lid and cook for another 8 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked.

5. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, and gently fold in the olives; squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Spoon the rice mixture into shallow bowls, then top with the cooked chicken pieces.

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