Chicken Soupy Rice (Arroz Asopado con Pollo)

When Sarah and I lived in Ridgewood, Queens, one of our favorite things to get at our local Puerto Rican or Dominican restaurants was the Chicken Soupy Rice. It was cheap and delicious, especially on winter nights. Sarah has come down with a cold, so I thought I would try my hand at a version off the cuff since we both have fond memories of curling up on the couch with soupy rice when we were sick in NYC.

The ingredients that I used:

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Fresh ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

2 shallots, chopped

2 sweet potatoes, diced

1/2 cup of snow peas, sliced

2 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes

2 chicken breasts, diced

Adobo seasoning

Cinnamon

1 cup arborio rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Toss chicken with adobo seasoning and cinnamon.  (Marinate for an hour if you have the time.)  Saute chicken in a pan and set aside. In a pot, heat a few tablespoons of oil and add the garlic and ginger. After a couple of minutes add the shallot and saute for a few more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the arborio rice and the snow peas. Saute for a minute or two. Pour in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, add the crushed tomatoes, stir and cover. Simmer for about twenty minutes, stirring every few minutes to ensure that the rice does not stick. When the rice is done, add the chicken. At this point check the consistency. You want it to be thick but still soupy, somewhere between a stew and a soup. If it is too thick (as mine was), add some more stock and water to get it to the thickness that you desire. Simmer another minute or two and serve. I topped ours with some chopped green onion.

A very comforting meal to share with your loved one while geeking out in front of Star Trek:TNG DVDs.

This is gluten and dairy free. Just be sure to check the chicken stock that you buy. Some of it does contain gluten.

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Mofongo!

I was excited about this dish.  It’s a Puerto Rican side dish of African origin, basically a cake of fried plantains, chicharrones and garlic all mashed together and smothered in delicious tomato sauce.  When we lived in Ridgewood, Queens, we had a couple of Puerto Rican and Dominican places down the block that served wonderful, wonderful versions of this.  (If you’re in the area, try Jorge’s on Seneca Ave., right under the Seneca M stop.  It’s the one with the purple neon lights in the windows.)  You can also get it with chicken, or with whole garlicky shrimp on the side.  They’re all delicious, and in our neighborhood the going rate for a cake of mofongo bigger than the two of us could finish was about $3.50.  Did I mention it’s gluten free?  I must have eaten this stuff three times a week when I first went on the gluten-free diet.   We often had it on the side with some pollo a la plancha and rice and beans, but just as often we’d eat it on our own.  Filling! Cheap! Gluten-free!

Mofongo is probably the dish Joe and I have missed the most since moving to Philly.  We tried a $15 version at Mixto but were unimpressed, so we decided to make our own.  I looked up a couple of recipes but didn’t find anything quite like I remembered, so we decided to pretty much wing it.

Mofongo:

3 green plantains, sliced diagonally

6 cloves garlic

1/2 cup crumbled chicharrones, fried fatback or bacon, cooked

Olive oil and salt to taste

Fry the plantain slices until they soften.  Crush garlic and grind in mortar and pestle with olive oil and salt.  Add all ingredients to food processor and pulse in short bursts until the plantains are in small pieces.  (Do not puree.  If it’s a paste, you’ve gone too far.)  Pack tightly into a bowl or small ramekins to shape.  Warm in oven on low heat until ready to serve.

Sauce:

3 cloves of garlic

2 Cups of chopped cherry tomatoes (I used green, yellow and red)

One medium onion chopped

Two chilli peppers or japalenos roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped. 

One cup of chicken stock

Four scallions chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a high-sided pan or pot on medium high heat. Add onion, saute for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and saute until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes and stir. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the scallions and chillies. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken stock. Increase heat to high. When it begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for another ten minutes. Use a stick blender or pour liquid into a blender. Blend until you have a thick but soupy consistency. Put back on stove on low heat and add salt and pepper to taste. At this point you could add a bit more stock if is is too thick. You want it to be easily pourable yet it should adhere to the mofongo.  Also, you can cut down on the chillies if you don’t want it blazing hot.

Our execution:

We bought three green plantains, but our first surprise was that two of them ripened really quickly.  OK, so we’d be unorthodox and mix green (savory) and yellow (sweet) plantains in our mofongo.  So far, so good.  Joe pounded some chicken cutlets flat, rubbed them with adobo seasoning and threw them on the grill.  He fried up some bacon and some fatback (since we can no longer just go to the corner butcher for a cone of hot chicharrones), and threw together a tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, I sliced the plantains and fried them until they got soft and a little bit brown.  Then I attempted to mash them with a masher, but they just got stuck in the grooves of the masher, so I threw them in the Cuisinart with the pork.  I muddled some garlic, olive oil and salt with the mortar and pestle and threw that in as well.  A few pulses later, it looked like mofongo.  It smelled like mofongo.  And it tasted like mofongo.  Score!

Since we didn’t really have a good mold for a big mofongo cake, I pressed the mixture into ramekins to make little single-serving cakes.  We served them piled with Joe’s improvised tomato sauce and some chopped fresh scallions, and the chicken, for a bright and colorful meal.  (Sadly, my camera ran out of batteries!) The sauce was much, much spicier than the thin, savory sauce we loved in Ridgewood, and the plantains were sweeter.  It wasn’t exactly like the Ridgewood version, but it was damn tasty.

And then I had a nasty allergic reaction, the details of which I’ll spare you.  I have a long history of negative and scary interactions between my immune system and my gut and have been diagnosed with all sorts of things (see the FAQ for a Cliffs Notes version), and this was the first bad experience I’ve had since my recent stay in the hospital.  I made it through half a serving of mofongo and then was pretty much destroyed for the night.  I’m not sure which ingredient declared war on my body, but I’ll definitely be discussing this at my next doctor’s appointment.

But!  The good news: if you’re not a freak like me, this dish is quite tasty, and much easier to make than I expected it to be. 

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