By Hunter Tripp
Photography by Maggie Duval
When someone asks me what my favorite food is, I say arroz con pollo! Why do I like it so much? My family’s arroz con pollo is a version of chicken (the pollo) cooked with rice (the arroz), but we make it Cuban-style, and it’s so delicious! This delectable dish is incredibly easy to make, but it’s also very satisfying. The ingredients are things you usually can get locally. But if you can’t get them at the farmers market, at least make sure you use organic.
In addition to the chicken and rice, our version of arroz con pollo has pimento-stuffed green olives, asparagus, chicken stock, salt and pepper, dark beer and chipotle chile powder. The recipe came to my family over 40 years ago, just before my mommy, Maggie, was born. Her father (my grandfather) was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, stationed at Guantanamo U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. The whole family moved down there with him.
My grandma learned the recipe from her mother’s helper, Estellita, who came to work on the base most days. Once Grandma had learned the recipe, she started a family tradition of adding one ingredient each generation—beginning with her pick: asparagus. One generation later, Mommy added chipotle chile powder. What will I add? Bell pepper? Rosemary? Black olives? Tomato, maybe? All in good time!
I love this meal for a lot of reasons. Its creamy texture is wonderful, and this is a special dish you wouldn’t have every day. Also, I really enjoy making it with Mommy. But the number one reason I like it is because it’s “soul food”—something we say about our cooking when you really put your heart into it and make it with love. You don’t just feed people, you fill them up with the love you’ve put into making the food!
Mommy and I cook this dish together, which is very comforting to me. The pot we cook it in is about as old as she is! We use a heavy, blue, cast-iron Dutch oven—the same one Grandma always used. Mommy says it’s called “DRU-ware” and was made in Holland in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
When the smell of arroz con pollo fills the air, I feel like I’m in heaven! My mouth waters, and my stomach roars so loud it would scare a lion! When it’s finally ready, and the first bite hits my mouth, I feel as if Christmas has come early. Can I have seconds? And I always have the best dreams after this special meal. I’m not joking!
When you make arroz con pollo it might be the best dinner you’ve ever had. And when you heat up the leftovers the next day, they’ll be just as good, if not better, because the ingredients have had time to blend! Enjoy!