Asopao is a Puerto Rican dish which is very similar to Arroz con Pollo, but is served much soupier than the latter dish that you find in other Latin countries. This version starts out soupy, but after about an hour the rice absorbs the remaining liquid and it gets drier. I haven't decided yet whether I prefer it fresh, or after it has been sitting in the refrigerator for a day. Of all the dishes I cook, this has to be the one my friends beg me to make the most; I'd accomodate them more often if I had a good source of andouille.
I adapted this recipe from one in James McNair's Rice Cookbook. The recipe as published is pretty good, but with just a few tweaks it goes from good to fabulous, if perhaps somewhat less authentic. The book has beautiful pictures, several great recipes, and no bad ones that I've found yet. If you try the recipe, please /msg me and let me know what you think.
- 3-4 large cloves garlic, pressed. Don't use the old, purplish, sprouting cloves that have been sitting on a boat from China for the past two months. Buy fresh garlic from Gilroy, or use the pre-minced stuff
from a jar.
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) each: dried oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper. Please, don't
use old spices: it will suck the life from the dish.
- 1/2 teaspoon (5 ml) ground red (cayenne) pepper. I like spicier food, but this is
about the maximum you can add without overwhelming the dish.
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken half-breasts. Or use the equivalent amount of thighs. Don't leave the skin on; it will make the dish greasy.
- 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) Olive Oil, or enough to keep things from sticking.
- 1 medium onion and 1 large green pepper, finely chopped.
- 1/2 pound (230 gm) Andouille sausage, Louisiana style, cut into bite-sized pieces. Use a good, spicy smoked pork
sausage! This ingredient is really the key to the dish, and you'll have to experiment around until you find a good one in your area. High-quality smoked ham is a passable substitute, but I prefer the sausage. Try a butcher or a high-end grocery store; your regular grocery store is likely to have only mediocre sausage.
- 1 can tomatoes, peeled and chopped, with juice. A 12 ounce (340 gm) can works fine for me, but use what you have.
- 2 Cups (500 ml) uncooked white rice. I think medium grain Calrose is best, but it's not critical.
- 6 Cups (1.5 liters) chicken stock, or bullion. I use Knorr bullion cubes, despite the MSG content.
- 1/2 Cup (125 ml) grated parmesan cheese. Get Parmesano Reggiano if you can
afford it; it makes a difference.
- 1 1/2 Cups (375 ml) frozen green peas.
- 1/3 Cup (75 ml) green olives, pitted, sliced, and ,preferably pimento-stuffed.
- 1-2 Tablespoons (15-30 ml) small capers. The pickled ones, that come in a jar.
- 1 red (bell) pepper, roasted and cut into strips. How do I roast a pepper?
- More parmesan cheese, grated, for topping.
Mix the garlic and spices in a bowl. Rub 'em onto the chicken with your fingers, then let the chicken sit in the fridge overnight (or at least an hour). Wash your hands, 'cause now they're covered in chicken goo.
Brown the chicken in the oil in a large (6 or 8 liter) saucepan. Don't worry about cooking it all the way through, just brown it. Remove the chicken and set aside.
Saute the onion and pepper in the oil until soft but not brown (5 min). Scrape the spicy, garlickey, chickeney bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the sausage and tomatoes, and saute 5 more minutes. Put the chicken back in, cover, and saute 20 minutes more. Remove the
chicken, which should now be cooked through.
Wash the rice (if you normally do that sort of thing; I don't) and immediately add it to the pan. Stir. Add the stock. Stir again. Boil, then simmer covered for 17 min (or until rice is tender but still soupy). While it's cooking, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Finally, put the chicken back in and add everything else except the red peppers. Garnish with red pepper strips and serve immediately, with extra cheese on the side.
Source: McNair, James. James McNair's Rice Cookbook. Chronicle Books, 1988 (56)