Chicken Perlau

Chicken Perlau, or Perloo, or Arroz con Polo, or however you spell it or say it, is a favorite in both North and South America.  There are many variations of this jambalaya-like dish, but the main ingredients are chicken, rice, and your choice of spices.  Tomatoes, garlic, and onion also round out the base.  I've taken my family dish in a slightly more Cuban direction with the addition of Saffron and citrus juices, but I've omitted the olives to keep the salt down.   I also use brown rice instead of white.  When cooked in heavy pot the rice crisps slightly on the bottom to form the most delectable part of this already fragrant dish.  Finally, in true mash-up fashion I top the dish with an Italian inspired lime-scented Gremolata.  You won't miss the salt.

Part One:  Chicken

4 garlic cloves, pressed

Juice of one orange

Juice of two limes

1 teaspoon fine kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut up

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil


1.  Place chicken pieces in a large bowl or casserole.  Mix together the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and orange and lime juices in a small bowl.  Pour over the chicken and make sure all pieces are well coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

2.  Remove chicken from marinade and dry on paper towels.  Reserve the marinade and set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil and bacon fat/butter in a large, heavy dutch oven or pot (at least 7 quarts) over medium high heat until it shimmers and bubbles. 

4.  Add the chicken pieces in a single layer, skin side down first, and brown all over.  You will have to do this in 2-3 batches. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate and cover with foil.

Part Two: For the Perlau:

2 yellow onions (or about 1 pound), chopped

1 small green pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 Poblano pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 small red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

pinch Saffron threads

1/4 cup white wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken bone broth or stock

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups medium grain brown or Carolina Gold rice

4 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. After you have browned the last batch of chicken, pour off fat until one tablespoon remains in the pot.  Add the onions, peppers and garlic.  Using a wooden spoon or spatula, saute over medium high heat, scraping the bottom of the pan and you stir.  Stir for about 6 to 8 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

3.  While you are cooking the vegetables, toast Saffron in a separate small dry saucepan over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds.  Add the wine and bring to a simmer.  Then add the chicken broth or stock and set temperature on low.

4.  Rinse the rice and drain in a fine-sieve colander.

5. Add the salt to the vegetables and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, broth/stock, tomatoes, reserved marinade, and water.  Bring to a boil.

6.  Add the chicken legs, thighs, and wings to the pot and cover.  Simmer for about 10 minutes.

7.  Stir in rice, then add chicken breast pieces skin side up.  Bring to a simmer, then cover.

8.  Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed  (brown and Carolina gold rice take a bit longer to cook than white rice.)

9. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the peas.  Recover and let steam for 5-10 minutes. 

10.  Serve topped with Gremolata or just some chopped cilantro.

Part Three:  For the Gremolata:

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

1 small garlic clove, pressed


Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle a little bit evenly over each serving.