Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice. (Handout/TNS)

This is a one-dish quick and easy dinner. Chicken and rice made with Puerto Rican sofrito is the secret to this dish. Sofrito is a seasoning sauce used in many Spanish, Caribbean and Latin American dishes.The base for the Puerto Rican sofrito is made with green bell peppers, culantro (saw-leaf coriander, a relative of cilantro) and ajies dulces (sweet cooking peppers.) It’s an herbal sauce that adds fragrance and flavor to many dishes.

Fresh cilantro and cubanelle peppers or other mildly hot peppers can be used in place of culantro and ajies dulces. Cubanelle peppers are elongated and light green in color. They’re similar to Anaheim peppers and are mildly hot.

SHOPPING LIST: To buy: Two 8-ounce chicken breasts with bone, 1 package white long-grain rice, 1 bottle beer, 1 package frozen peas, 1 container sliced sweet pimentos, 1 cubanelle pepper, 1 tomato, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1 cubanelle pepper or other mildly hot pepper. Staples: Olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and black peppercorns.

Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice

For the sofrito:

  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper cut into large cubes
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup peeled and quartered onion
  • 1/2 cup tomato quarters
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 1/2 cup seeded cubanelle pepper cut into large cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Two 8-ounce chicken breasts with bone, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup beer (see note)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup sliced sweet pimentos

Note: White wine or chicken broth can be substituted for the beer.

Make the sofrito. Place green bell pepper, garlic, onion, tomato, 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and cubanelle pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until mixed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and saute 1 minute. Add the water, beer and sofrito. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Do not let the liquid come to a boil. Add the peas and pimentos. Cook 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro on top and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 523 calories (19 percent from fat), 11.3 g fat (1.9 g saturated, 6 g monounsaturated), 95 mg cholesterol, 37.8 g protein, 63.5 g carbohydrates, 8.2 g fiber, 95 mg sodium.

Here is another version:

Arroz con Pollo, or Chicken with Rice, is a Cuban favorite that makes a perfect one-pot quick dinner. There are probably as many versions of this popular dish as there are people who make it.

This recipe is simple, yet keeps the traditional flavors and the combination of spices is delicious. The rice cooks in the pan and absorbs the flavors of the vegetables and herbs.

The dish will keep a day in the refrigerator and can be frozen. If you have time, make double, and you will have another quick meal for emergencies.

Open a bag of washed, ready-to-eat salad and serve with a low-fat dressing to complete this quick meal.

SHOPPING LIST: To buy: Two 8-ounce chicken breasts, 1 red bell pepper, 4 ripe plum tomatoes, 1 package saffron strands or bijol, 1 small package frozen petite peas and 1 small bottle dry sherry. Staples: Olive oil, onion, garlic, long grain white rice, fat-free, low-salt chicken broth, salt and black peppercorns.

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

  • Two 8-ounce chicken breasts, with bone; skin removed (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use (see note)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 cup fat free, low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron strands or bijol (see note)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite peas

Note: You will need 1 pound of chicken breasts with the bone cut into smaller pieces. To save time, ask the meat department to halve the breasts when you buy them. Any olive oil can be used in the recipe, but if you have Spanish olive oil, try it. It adds a slightly peppery flavor. Bijol can be used instead of saffron. It is made from ground annatto seed and often contains some cumin and oregano. Turmeric can also be substituted.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cut chicken into small pieces and brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken, and season with salt and pepper.

Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté onions, red bell pepper and garlic without browning, 5 minutes.

Place rice in a strainer and rinse under cold water. Drain well and add to skillet. Sauté 1 minute. Add chicken broth and saffron. Bring to a simmer and add sherry and tomatoes. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and simmer, covered, 15 minutes more. Add peas and cook 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 580 calories (19 percent from fat), 12.1 g fat (2.1 g saturated, 6.3 g monounsaturated), 126 mg cholesterol, 48 g protein, 60.6 g carbohydrates, 5.8 g fiber, 173 mg sodium.

Quick Fix is a Tribune News Service column from Linda Gassenheimer. She is the author, most recently, of “The 12-Week Diabetes Cookbook,” “Delicious One-Pot Dishes” and “Quick and Easy Chicken.” Her website is dinnerinminutes.com. Follow her on Twitter @lgassenheimer. Email: linda@dinnerinminutes.com.

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