Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Frost

We're expecting the first frost of the season tonight. I spent the fifteen minutes between when I got home from work and when it got really too dark to see outside pulling green tomatoes off the vine. When I got inside, I knew I was going to have to either turn on the heat or engage in a serious baking project. It's mid-October in New England, but I'll be darned if I'm going to fire up the boiler. Arroz con pollo takes too long to start after 6 pm and still eat that same evening, but it saves and reheats scrumptiously.

Arroz con pollo
serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, quartered, or 2 breasts and 2 legs
1 relatively mild dried pepper (ancho, California, New Mexico, or Poblano)
2 T coarse sea salt
1 T pepper corns
1 T cumin seeds
1 T oregano (preferable Mexican or Latin oregano)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cups rice
3 cups stock or chicken broth
1 large or two medium green tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can tomato sauce, ideally "spanish style"

Toast the dried pepper by setting on a very hot cast iron skillet for about 1 minute per side. Remove any stem and put the pepper aside. Next quickly toast the cumin seeds (this should take about 30 seconds).

Using a mortar and pestle if you have one, or a spice grinder (a coffee grinder works for this, but be sure to clean it carefully!), grind the toasted pepper, toasted cumin seeds, 1 T salt, pepper corns, and oregano. Using your hands, rub the mixture all over the chicken. Cover and let sit 1-24 hours. If it's one hour, you can leave it out; if it's longer put it in the fridge and then bring it back out 30 minutes before you're ready to do the next step.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a dutch oven or big oven-safe pot, heat the olive oil and then brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side. You may well need to do this in batches. Once the chicken is browned, set it aside. In the drippings, saute the onion until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat, then add the stock or broth, green tomatoe, and tomatoe sauce. Stir. Place the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture, cover, and bake for one hour.

Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate (taste continues to improve!).