Now that I’ve shown you how to master vegetarian paella, I believe it’s time to introduce you to it’s second cousin, arroz con pollo, or in this case arroz con fauxllo, since I’m going to use a chicken substitute. Whereas paella was usually saved for special occasions, arroz con pollo was a regular staple in my grandparent’s culinary arsenal. They were masters at preparing this dish, and I remember that they always served it with sliced pimentos made to look like little roses to decorate the rice.
A couple of years ago my grandmother came to live with me for a short time. It was a big culture shock for her moving from somewhere everyone spoke her native language of Spanish, to somewhere they didn’t. I wanted desperately to make her feel at home so I decided I would make a proper arroz con pollo that first weekend she stayed with us. It had been a while since I had made some, and I relished the fact it was something we could cook together. We made a list of what we thought we’d need and off we went together to the grocery store. As she and I went through the aisles picking up the necessary ingredients, we turned down the spice aisle and she anxiously said (what sounded to me like) “I can’t believe we almost forgot B-hole.”
I let out a guffaw, because I thought she was joking… or surely I had misunderstood her. I asked her to repeat herself. She insisted again, “We need B-hole” and her eyes darted across the spice racks. I was really trying to maintain my composure when I asked her what that was, I asked her if it had a different name in English perhaps, and she said no, she asserted that we needed a small yellow container of B-hole. I was in stitches at that point because I had no idea what she was talking about, and she was getting quite upset and frustrated with me. She didn’t have the fondest clue why I thought what she was saying was funny. In the middle of this, a clerk walked towards us making his way down the aisle and before I could get myself together she asked him in broken English if he knew where she could find the B-hole.
The clerk looked at her with the most confounded expression and the widest eyes I’ve ever seen and she continued trying to explain that she was looking for B-hole spice for yellow rice. I was dying laughing and she felt so embarrassed because she thought I was laughing at her and still didn’t realize the joke. The clerk picked up a package of Goya seasoning and she insisted no, that she prefers B-hole. Not sure what to make of this whole thing he said that was all they had for yellow rice. I thanked him and he walked away with a look of confusion and a little bit of horror.
I collected myself and asked her if she meant saffron, since I finally understood she was looking for a spice to color the rice. Exasperatedly she exclaimed that we could use saffron, but it tastes much better with B-hole. I apologized to her for laughing and told her that I didn’t think we were going to find B-hole at this grocery store, and that I had plenty of saffron at home. I also explained the reason for my laughter, but I don’t believe she found it quite as funny as I did since she was thoroughly ticked off at me.
As soon as we got home, I googled B-hole yellow rice seasoning and low and behold, I found exactly what she was referring to. Bijol is ground annatto seed and widely available in most Latin grocery stores. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing again. For those unaware, the letter J in Spanish is pronounced like an H. The mystery was solved, and now I will never forget that it’s better to make arroz con pollo with ground annatto than with saffron. I actually prefer not to use Bijol since it contains red food coloring, but you can easily find other brand names containing the spice which won’t be as amusing if you have to ask a grocery store clerk.
1/2 tsp ground annatto (achiote molido) or 1/4 tsp saffron
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
3 TB hot water
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive oil
~12 oz of chicken substitute (e.g. Trader Joe’s chicken-less strips, Gardein Chick’n Strips, Quorn chik’n tenders etc.)
1/4 C sour orange juice (or regular orange juice will also work)
1/16 tsp smoked paprika
4 garlic cloves minced
2 carrots cut into medallions
1 green bell pepper julienned (cut into strips)
1/2 medium red bell pepper julienned (cut into strips)
1/3 medium sweet onion diced
1 C water
1/2 C vegetable stock
1/2 C tomato sauce
3/4 C Valencia short grained white rice (aka pearl rice)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 C frozen sweet peas
1/3 bottle of light beer
1 C frozen sweet corn (not traditional, but I like to add it)
1/4 C sliced pimentos (traditional, but I don’t like to add it)
- Place ground annatto (or saffron) and turmeric in a cup/dish with 3 TB of boiling hot water and set aside.
- Add 1 TB of olive oil to a large skillet and heat to medium, then add 1 TB of minced garlic, chicken substitute, sour orange juice and paprika. Cook until chick’n turns golden browns approximately 5-7 minutes.
- Add chopped onion, bell peppers, carrots and remainder of garlic (and pimentos if including) to the pan with the chick’n, add a splash of the annatto/turmeric sauce, then sautée for 5-7 minutes or until vegetables begin to tenderize.
- Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
- In a large stock pot or dutch oven add water, vegetable stock, tomato sauce and salt and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling add the rice, the remainder of the annatto/turmeric sauce, oregano, garlic powder and bay leaf.
- Stir to combine, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until rice begins to plumpen.
- Add peas (and corn if including) to the top, but do not stir the rice. Cover and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes.
- Add ~1/3 of a bottle of beer to the pot, then add the chick’n and vegetables to the rice. Do not stir. Cover and cook for 12-15 minutes.
- Fluff rice and with a fork and combine all the previously added ingredients to incorporate them into the rice with a gentle stir.
- Assess if the rice is still too wet in which case, cover and cook for an additional 10 -15 minutes or until the rice is mostly dry, plump, and the grain is not hard (what we call abierto or open in English). *Some people prefer the rice a little wet and this is called ensopado, or soupy rice.
- Once the rice is mostly dry, then the dish is ready to serve.
[metacook type=”name” display=”none”]Arroz con Fauxllo – Vegan chicken and yellow rice[/metacook][metacook type=”description” display=”none”]Vegan version of tradional Cuban arroz con pollo.[/metacook][metacook type=”prepTime” display=”none”]20 min[/metacook][metacook type=”cookTime” display=”none”]1 hour 15 min[/metacook][metacook type=”totalTime” display=”none”]1.5 hours[/metacook][metacook type=”yield” display=”none”]6-8 servings[/metacook]