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Asopao de Pollo (Chicken and Rice Stew)

There are many versions of Asopao, the Puerto Rican style rice-based stew that is not quite a soup and not quite a paella. The dish can be prepared with poultry, shellfish, ham, chorizo and even gandules (beans), but the seasoning for Asopao is usually the same no matter the other ingredients.

Essential in preparing Asopao are sofrito and achiote oil, and I have included the directions for preparing each of these. You can make them in advance and store them in the refrigerator until you prepare the Asopao.

Asopao de Pollo

4 tablespoons sofrito (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3- 4 pound chicken, cut up (cut the chicken in fourths, separate the wings from the breasts and the legs from the thighs, cut the thighs and the breasts in half)
3 tablespoons achiote oil (see recipe below)
1 cup tomato sauce
1 box frozen petit pois (baby peas)
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons Spanish olives, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rice

Combine 1 tablespoon of the sofrito, vinegar, garlic, black pepper, salt and oregano in a large bowl and stir together thoroughly to create a marinade. Add the cut-up chicken to the bowl and rub with the marinade mixture, coating each piece of chicken thoroughly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

Place the achiote oil in a large, heavy soup pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook, turning frequently, to brown each piece on all sides.

Add 3 tablespoons of sofrito to the pan and sauté it gently for several minutes.

Add the tomato sauce, peas, chicken stock, capers, olives, bay leaf, oregano and salt. Stir to combine the ingredients.

Add the rice. Bring the liquid to a boil. Give the rice a stir with a fork, then cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer. Simmer the Asopao for about 30 minutes, until the rice is tender.

Serve in soup bowls.

Sofrito

Sofrito is the flavor base for many Latin dishes and it is often prepared in large batches, frozen into cubes using ice cube trays, and kept on hand for everyday cooking.

1 onion, peeled
1 green bell pepper
3 sweet chili peppers
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor or a blender. Pulse the vegetables and herbs until they are well chopped and blended. Transfer the sofrito to a clean glass jar and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.


Achiote Oil

Achiote, or annatto seeds are steeped in olive oil to create the brightly colored oil used in much of the cooking of the Spanish speaking Caribbean. You can find annato seeds in many Latin markets

1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons annatto seeds

Heat the olive oil and the annatto seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow the oil to cook the seeds gently, just until they begin to sizzle, being careful not to burn them. When the seeds begin to sizzle, remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool. When the oil has cooled, strain it into a clean glass jar and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.





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