GCC: Arroz Imperial [Imperial Rice]

The first time I tried this dish was when I lived in Miami and was invited to a birthday party by a friend from Cuba.

When I first saw it, I figure it was the typical Arroz con pollo – [chicken and rice] dish found in most Latin birthday parties.

Boy, was I wrong.

Is anything BUT, the typical chicken and yellow rice.

I would call it a dress up version of Chicken and yellow rice with a couple of twist - Mayonnaise is added to the cooked rice and the chicken is cooked in a sofrito/tomato base giving it a rich flavor, then its layered like a lasagna, and topped with mozzarella or any other mild white cheese.

Living in Miami, I never had the need to make it at home, since about 80% of the Cuban restaurants would have it as a catering/menu choice and all I had to do, was place the order and pick it up.

I had not had this dish in over 10 years.

Until the “All in one dish” theme came along to our Gutsy Cook menu choices this week. And I remember it and of course went searching for it. I originally choose two different versions of the recipe. One made by “Three guys from Miami” who have published two cookbooks of Cuban/Latin cuisine, which I own and have yet to do make a recipe that had not come out delicious. The second recipe reminded me of the original version that I had during my friend’s birthday party and since I could not decided on either of them, I place them both and let the Gutsy Cook creativity kick in.

I took a bit from both. 

The dish was a total hit.  And I can see it becoming a dish that we will created for special occassions around these parts.

A couple of tips:

I know the option of adding mayonnaise to the rice can be a bit off-putting, but don’t skip the step. The mayonnaise helps keeps the rice moist during the baking time and the final dish will not taste like a salad – trust me.

Use good mozzarella/cheeses, it makes a difference. I actually used some Parmesan/Peccorino combo, to give it a bit of a kick in addition to topping it with smoked mozzarella – plus you can never go wrong by adding more cheese to something.

I dare you to prove me wrong on that.

I use chicken thighs, since it tends to be less dry than the breast when cooked.  And if you want to take short cuts, you can always buy a roast chicken, shredded it and use chicken stock instead of making your own.

Make it a day ahead, but don’t do the final cooking in the oven.  Like with anything that has bold flavors, it needs to have a bit of time to develop them. Patience in this case will bring huge rewards, since the dish will taste even better the the next day.

Neither of the recipe tells you to do this, but I love my cheese a bit burned. If you are like me, after 20 minutes of baking time, switch your oven to the broiler function and let that cheese burn a bit - about 2-3 minutes tops. Don’t walk away during this, specially if your broiler is hard core (like mine) or you will have a burned mess on your hands.

Burned cheese is not a GOOD THING.

And lastly, don’t let it fool you with all the ingredient, it can get done in 1 hour - 30 if you take the short cuts.

This goes great with a couple of “Platanos fritos” (Fried plantain). Around our house, we found that Goya has them frozen and they are the best.thing.ever - no oil mess to clean up afterwards!

Don’t forget to check out the other Gutsy Cooks and see their take in the “All in one dish” line up.

Next week theme is “Let’s make it Sweet” and boy are there some choices in there that I’m really looking forward to making.