Given that it’s all kale, all the time now, I hope you won’t chide me for bringing up the lovable green again here. Maybe part of kale’s longevity has to do with the fact that the veggie keeps on surprising: just the other day, I had a kale salad that surpassed every kale salad yet ingested or read about, by me, in New York City, circa 2012-2014.
Or, kale’s staying power has more to do with having become a mainstay in our fridges, rather than a complicated restaurant-only thing. Bunches keep well, meaning you can tear off a leaf here and there when dinners need more green.
Right now, one-pot dinners strike me as the only type of dinners. Two pots needed? No thanks. The thing about one pot dinners, though, is that you have to make an effort to vegetabalize your meal. That’s why there’s half a clamshell of baby spinach in Lentils & Sausage Braised in Red Wine and a whole zucchini plus three types of green pepper in Healthy Chicken Chili with Barley. When you choose one pot, you better fill it with a lot of different elements. Small pot, big promise–or something like that.
For a long time, I’d been wanting to put my own vegetable-rich spin on Arroz Con Pollo, perhaps the ultimate in one-pot meals. Protein: check. Carbs: check. Vegetables: sort of check. And that’s where the kale came back in.
In addition to the sofrito–onions, garlic, and green pepper–there’s also red pepper here, there are celery and carrots, there’s a handful of peas, and there’s our famous kale. I love the rich flavors of chicken, turmeric, and paprika, and the hit of spice from the jalapeño.
And now I love that with every bite, I get my vegetables too, kale included.
Arroz Con Pollo with Tons of Vegetables
Serves at least 4 but likely more
I tried to work on a recipe that would keep the skin of the chicken crispy, but you know what–I couldn’t do it. In order for the chicken to cook through, you’ve got to submerge it in the liquid and rice, which kills the crispness. Still, browning the skin helps to develop flavor. You could remove it before serving if you want more elegance.
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 small carrots, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups long-grain white rice
1/2 bunch kale, stem removed, leaves cut into ribbons and rubbed with salt (I like lacinato, but use whatever you like)
1 cup frozen peas, left to defrost on the counter while you make the rest of the meal
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Juice of half a lemon, plus lemon wedges for garnish
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet with a lid. Salt the chicken, then brown very well on both sides, and set aside on a plate.
Lower the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and peppers to the pan. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until all the veggies are soft and fragrant. Add the spices and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Add the rice and 3 cups of water and mix it all up. Return the chicken with its juices and press to submerge the pieces beneath the rice. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed. Stir in the kale, peas, and cilantro, then replace the cover and cook the chicken for 10 more minutes, til both the rice and chicken are done. Cover once more and let the whole thing rest for another 10 minutes, to let flavors combine, then add lemon juice, toss again, taste for salt, and serve, garnished with cilantro and lemon wedges.
Photos by Carly Diaz