My House Smells! (In a very, very good way)

I wish everyone could smell my kitchen right now! I just finished cooking Arroz con Pollo, chicken with rice, and I had to sit down immediately to write about it. The aromas are reminding me so much of my time in Spain that I think I was actually smiling while I was cooking just now. Browning chicken, melting onions and peppers, sharp tingles of garlic and vinegar, and bright florals from the oregano, just kept me squealing about how good this was going to be for dinner. My 4-year old kept checking in on me in the kitchen to make sure I was OK. I don't really know what she thought I was doing in there, but she had the most curious look on her face.

Anyway, after I put the rice in and let it cook for a bit, I was just so delighted at the beautiful color and texture of the rice. It calls for a medium-grain rice or pearl rice, found in the Hispanic aisle, usually. You can use the long-grain rice, but the texture is totally different. I keep thinking about how my friend, Belinda, and I would walk the streets of Barcelona looking for treats. No one in Spain really eats on the same schedule as Americans do, so we forced ourselves to wait for dinner, not knowing that dinner in Spain is usually after 10:00 p.m. We managed to find a wine cellar that sold us wine directly into our empty water jugs from the barrells themselves. We lugged them back to the hostel and managed to forget all about dinner, our howling stomachs, and, unfortunately, our behavior, which is another story all-together.

We followed our noses to a place with a courtyard that had tons of locals...we knew we had the right spot. Just like when you are looking for a good Chinese place, if Chinese people are filling the place up, then you've hit the jack-pot. Our Arroz con Pollo was one of the most memorable meals I had in all of Europe (outside of the Pakistani food in London). Tender and flavorful rice, chicken that actually tasted like chicken, chunks of tomatoes, leaves of oregano, and just a little bite from an acid of some sort (maybe white or red wine vinegar) enveloped my nose and turned my palate into a crazy-high water slide of saliva and excitement. Divine!

I adapted this recipe from one I received in an email from Cook's Illustrated. Their recipe calls for green olives, capers, pimentos, vinegar, and olive oil that coats the chicken before serving. Having kids, I knew this wouldn't fly. I used the pungent olive-caper mixture as a garnish and optional condiment. I also substituted a few other ingredients.

I wish my kitchen could smell like this every day...

Arroz con Pollo

6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
8 bone-in chicken thighs (skin optional)
2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for sauteing
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
10 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups pearl or medium-grain rice
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
2 Tbsp. capers
1/2 cup diced, jarred pimentos

Marinate the chicken in the garlic, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and vinegar for 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a large dutch-oven-type pot, saute the onion and bell pepper until soft and starting to turn golden brown. Push it to the side and add the chicken, skin or flesh-side down, until golden brown (about 5 minutes) on medium-high heat, then flip and brown the other side. Add the stock and crushed tomatoes, scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the brown bits. Add the rice and half of the olives and capers. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 and after the 20 minutes, put it in the oven. Stir after 15 minutes and then cook another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the rice in a serving dish with the chicken on top. Mix the remaining olives, capers, and pimentos with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar; use as a garnish. You may toss the cooked chicken with the olive-caper-vinegar mixture before serving, if desired.

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