Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cubano Arroz con Pollo Especial!

A fancy Cuban style Arroz con Pollo!
     To many people, stereotypical latino cuisine is food that is cooked with hot spicy peppers.  Much of Cuba's food is mild and savory.  Cuba is famous for seafood and comfort cuisine.  In fact, in most hispanic western countries, hot chile peppers are used to flavor food mildly.  
     The seafood fishery regulations in Cuba are some of the strictest in the world.  Cuba will never have a problem with overfishing and sea life depletion.  Cuba has long been a great example of proper sustainable seafood management.  When grouper was depleted in the Florida Straights, Cuba had coastal grouper.  Part of Cuba's fishing regulations, demands that a high percentage of commercial fishing has to be done the old fashioned way, with no long lines, long nets or drag line nets.
     Chicken is popular in all of the caribbean islands, especially in Cuba.  There are great arroz con pollo recipes from Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands and Jamaica too.  Cuban arroz con pollo is a very popular entree in Miami Florida.
     When I was in the transportation business in Florida, after I drove passengers to Miami from the gulf coast of Florida, I would stop to have a meal at a local Cuban restaurant in Miami.  The food was always a large portion and it was simply prepared for a very modest price.  Cuban Arroz con Pollo was my favorite item to order.  The atmosphere of Little Havana in Miami is like a foreign country to most people.  Little Havana is steamy humid hot, old fashioned, it smells like Cuban cigars and there is some great Cuban food to be found there.
     This Cuban arroz con pollo recipe is prepared with an old fashioned haute cuisine style presentation.  The chicken in the picture is a half of a chicken that has all the bones removed, except for the upper wing drummette bone.  Slow roasting a chicken that is butchered and formed like this is a remarkable cooking method.  I once butchered 175 chickens that look like this one for a dinner party at a yacht club when I was a saute chef several years ago.  You need a very sharp boning knife or paring knife to prepare this style of boneless chicken.
     Many years ago, before the Cuban revolution, Havana was one of the great entertainment capitols of the world.  Havana was one of the nightlife capitols of the world.  The rich and famous of America and europe used to flock to Cuba.  Cuba offered very refined cuisine and haute dining room table service that was superb.
     In Florida, I worked with many great Cuban maitre d's from the old days.  These guys had class!  They also had the old school "greased palm" method of seating distinguished guests at the best tables.  Slip the maitre d' a $100 bill and you got the best table and service in the house!  The old school Cuban maitre d's knew what proper table service was all about and their waitstaff really knew their stuff.
    Classy proper dining room service is essential in high end yacht clubs and country clubs.  The well educated old money clientele demands good old fashioned proper serving techniques.  The clientele at the Florida yacht club, where I worked as a saucier and saute chef, was made up of mostly millionaires and billionaires.  Many of the clientele knew our maitre d' from the old days of Havana and that added to the charm.
     It was a nice being able to work with that old Cuban maitre d' and his staff.  I learned quite a bit from from their experience.  Better still, I got to listen to stories of the old days of Havana, which is now just a dark history lesson for most people.

     Deboning a Half Chicken:
     Cut both sides of a whole chicken's back bone through the thigh joints and remove the back bone and neck section.
     Use a quick, forceful,  sharp stroke with the heel of a chef knife to split the breast bone.
     Use your hands to crack the breast bone completely.
     Slice the chicken in half.
     Place one half of the chicken with the skin side down on a cutting board.  (a half chicken without the back section is needed for this recipe.
     Cut the skin of the leg completely around the ankle end of the leg bone.
     Cut the wing off at the middle joint, while retaining the drummette part of the wing.
     Note:  For the rest of the deboning, you must take great care not to cut through the skin or poke holes in it!  The skin will be seen by all at the table.
     Feel for the thigh bone and leg bone with your fingers.
     Make shallow slices against the bones, scraping the meat free from both sides of those bones.
     Carefully slice through the joints.
     Pull the leg and thigh bones up with your finger tips while slicing underneath to free the bones.
     Pull the leg bone out.
     Remove the main leg tendon.
     Remove the thigh bone.
     Slice the meat free from the ribs, starting with scraping shallow slices against the side of the ribs that were attached to the back bone section to the breast bone.
     Continue to filet the breast meat, till the rib cage is free from the meat, but still attached to the upper wing drummette joint.
     Slice through the upper drummette joint to free and remove the rib cage.  (Save the bones and back section for making stock or broth for another recipe!)
     Do not remove the wing drummette bone.
     Deboned Half Chicken Fabrication and Seasoning for Cuban Arroz con Pollo:
     Brush the meat side of the deboned chicken with olive oil.
     Season the meat side of the chicken with a 2 to 3 pinches each of:
     - ground anatto
     - sea salt
     - coriander
     - black pepper
     - cumin
     Fold the loose butt end of the chicken inward.
     Overlap the sides to form a cone shape with the wing drummette standing vertically at the top.
     Truss the cone shaped boneless half chicken with butchers string to retain the shape.
     Note:  An alternate to trussing to retain a vertical cone shape for a half chicken is molding.  Place the chicken in a 5 inch wide, tall sided steel ring mold with the drummette bone point straight up at the top.  Use a thin bamboo skewer to pin the seam of the cone shaped chicken together to retain its shape.  
     The half chicken should be round and wide at the bottom and it should narrow like a cone shape to the top where the drummette bone points vertically.
     Roasting the Cuban Style Pollo:
     Place the trussed chicken (or the molded chicken) on a roasting pan with the drummette pointing upwards.
     Slow roast the chicken in a 300 degree oven.
     Occasionally baste the chicken with its own juices.
     Roast the chicken for at least 30 minutes, till the chicken becomes golden colored and fully cooked.  
     Note:  The internal temperature for roasted chicken should be 165 degrees for 15 seconds by ServSafe standards.  Cuban chefs roast chicken a little bit longer!  Meats are almost always fully cooked in Cuban cuisine and sometimes over roasting is the standard.  Roast the chicken, till the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.  
     Rice for Cuban Style Arroz con Pollo:
     Plain white rice is an option.  Yellow saffron rice or yellow turmeric rice is often served in Cuban cuisine.  A mild anatto cumin flavored rice is another good choice for Cuban style arroz con pollo.  The drippings from the anatto, coriander and cumin flavored roasted chicken are often used to flavor the rice in home style Cuban restaurants.
     Place 1 cup of water in a sauce pot.
     Add 1 cup of chicken broth.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
     Add 1 cup of long grain white rice.
     After the water starts to return to a boil, the temperature to medium low/low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of cumin.
     Add 2 pinches of ground anatto.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer for about 18 to 20 minutes, till the rice becomes fully cooked.
     Stir the rice occasionally.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.
     Cubano Arroz Con Pollo Especial:
     Choose a ring mold that is the same size as the base of the trussed roasted chicken.
     Use the ring mold to place a portion of the the rice on a plate.
     Press the rice into the ring mold, so it becomes a stable base for the weight of the chicken.
     Remove the ring mold.
     Remove the trussing string or the ring mold and skewer from the Cuban style roasted boneless chicken half.
     Carefully and gently set the roasted chicken on top of the rice.
     Serve with seasoned black beans that are garnished with chopped onion.
     Serve with twice fried plantain slices.  (Fry the plantain slices till they become golden.  Then flatten them with a spatula and then fry them a second time.)
     Serve with buttered thick boiled yuca pieces that are seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.
     Serve with a whole cubanelle pepper that was brushed with olive oil and oven roasted.
     Garnish the drummette on the chicken with a paper frill.  (Paper frills are easy to make!  Use your imagination to figure it out or look for an instructional guide in the Larousse Gastronomique or on the internet.)
     This is a fine looking Cuban Arroz con Pollo presentation!  Arroz con pollo is usually a plain simple home style recipe.  The fabricated chicken is moist, tender and flavorful.  The seasonings flavor the chicken from the inside out.  The chicken's seasoning mixture is similar to an asado seasoning spice mix.  It is worth the time that it takes to prepare a half chicken like this one.  The eye appeal is nothing, when compared to the texture and flavor of this chicken!  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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