Friday, May 6, 2011

Arroz con pollo… a la cerveza!

Arroz con pollo translates as ‘rice with chicken’. That’s a fairly loose description that allows free reign for a bit of experimentation, right? However, using beer in this is not actually that unusual – it’s actually a commonly used ingredient when making this traditional Spanish dish.

Let’s take a step back. My original plan was to make a beer paella. Actually, I did make a beer paella, but it was a little disappointing and needs some tweeking. I’ll come back to it, but decided to stop off on the way and try something a little easier that uses basically the same ingredients and flavours. It really is very easy – put everything in a pot and cook until delicious. That’s my kind of recipe!

The beer I chose for this is the Epic and Dogfish Head collaboration brew – the Portamarillo smoked porter. There are a couple of reasons I wanted to try this particular beer in this particular dish. First, the smokey flavour. I like to use smoked paprika and thought this would enhance this further. Second, the use of Tamarillos in the brew. This fruit is a relative of the tomato, although slightly sweeter, and my thinking is the flavour would work well in this kind of dish. While neither of these elements are overly evident, the beer definitely enhances the finished product. As with so many meals I’ve cooked with beer, there is just an extra depth to the flavours.


500g skinless chicken thigh, cut into chunks (about 1 inch squarish)
2 large portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 medium red capsicum, sliced
1 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1 medium brown onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 cup long grain rice (I used basmati and it worked really well)
¾ cup Portamarillo smoked porter (or similar)
1 cup chicken stock
1 can diced tomato
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon dried coriander
Good pinch of saffron threads
 2 tablespoons Olive oil
Salt & pepper


Slice all your veg and cut the chicken, and measure out your rice, spice and liquids.

Heat the olive oil to medium-high in a large non-stick saucepan and brown the chicken in batches. When the chicken is cooked through, remove to a plate, cover with foil and set aside.

There should still be plenty of oil, so turn the heat down to low and cook the onions until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, then add the rice. Stir to coat all the grains well in the oil, until the grains start to turn translucent. Add the spices and stir to combine and allow the spices to become aromatic. 

Now for the good part – add the beer! Also add the stock and tomato and turn up the heat. Stir it all together and bring to the boil before adding the vegetables and returning the chicken to the pan (makes sure you also add any liquid from the chicken plate). Turn down to simmer for about 15 minutes. Check the pot occasionally and give it a stir to make sure it doesn’t stick too much to the bottom. A little caramelisation is good, but you don’t want the rice to burn and become bitter.

When the rice has absorbed the liquid and has become tender, you are ready to eat. This should be enough to feed four people once (or two people twice – you do the math). 

The good news is that the Portamarillo comes in a handy 500ml bottle, and as you only need ¾ cup of the beer in the recipe, you get to have a glass or two while you eat. I guess its not a huge surprise, but it compliments the food brilliantly. Maybe pick up a couple of bottles, so you can have a few more glasses.

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