Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo

This is my comfort food. When ever we had a special occasion, my mother would make this recipe. My sister and I are home to visit? Arroz con pollo. The day after Christmas? Arroz con pollo. This, like my pernil recipe, comes from Carmen Valldejuli’s Cocina Criolla (here in English). I recently made it for one of our friend-family dinners, and it was a hit even for the pickiest eater in the group. In this version I’ve kicked up the spices to make it extra savory.

The recipe in its original form calls for ajíes dulces and culantro. These are not readily available ingredients in most markets.  I found the ajíes (a small, savory and slightly sweet green pepper, about the size of a super large hatch pepper but without any of the spice) in the local Hispanic market in Mt. Pleasant here in DC. If you’re unable to come upon any ajíes, I’d simply double the green pepper quotient. And be careful which you buy, the Peruvian ajíes are super spicy! Puerto Rican food is pretty much never spicy, so unless you want this dish to be that way, be mindful of which you come across.

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Pernil – Puerto Rican Pork Roast

This is the simplest, best way to cook pork. Those in the Caribbean have got cooking pig down to an art, whether it’s lechón (a whole pig roasted on a spit) or a pernil, a cheap cut of meat that’s often enjoyed around the holidays and easily found here in the States. If you like savory, tender, one-pot dishes and want something to impress your guests, this is it.

My mom is Puerto Rican, so we grew up looking forward to a pernil around Christmas or New Years. I’ve only just started making them myself and they are my husband’s new favorite food. (This, and cheesecake.) It’s garlicky, salty, crunchy on the outside and fall-off-the-bone tender on the inside. Some recipes call for brining it (like this one) which, knowing the benefits of brining having just also made a turkey, sounds like an excellent idea if you have the foresight. I’m going to stick with the original recipe from the stalwart known as Cocina Criolla, the definitive cookbook for Puerto Rican food, available in both English and Spanish.

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