Meals in the new Kitchen – Arroz con Pollo

A series of posts about the meals I cook in our new house. I have posted on some of my culinary exploits in the past, but these will be special.

For the first time ever, I have new appliances (mainly a quality range) to cook with, and that brings me no small measure of joy.

The first meal was Arroz con Pollo, a hearty Mexican classic, single pot meal.

You really need a good heavy dutch oven for this. I have a Le Cruset “second” that I bought at an outlet store probably 25 years ago.

Browning the chicken
Browning the chicken

Arroz con pollo is traditionally made with a cut up whole chicken. You brown it in oil (I use olive oil), remove the chicken to a plate, then cook some veggies in the oil. Onions and bell peppers are essential, but you can get creative.

After you have sautéed the onions and firm veggies, you add a cup of rice, uncooked, 1.5 cups of chicken broth (the chicken pieces, and cover and cook in a 350F oven for about 90 minutes. The rice will be cooked, and the liquid from the chicken will run clear. Then you add some drained stewed tomatoes, some peas, and any other quick cook veggies. Again, you can get creative.

Ready to eat! Yum.
Ready to eat! Yum.

Back in the oven for 15 more minutes, and Voilá, a delicious meal that is easy to make, and to clean up after.

Buon Appetité!

Saying “Goodbye” to an old friend

I have to say goodbye to an old friend. We have been together for a long time. Probably 20 years or so, a good run. Alas, all good things must come to an end.

All the cans we have opened.  All the meals we shared. You have been reliable and faithful. Always there when needed. You never demanded much, but always ready for an adventure.

My original Swing-Away can opener has come to the end
My original Swing-Away can opener has come to the end

Lately, you have been slipping your gears. No longer able to cleanly open a can. It started with a few “bad” spots, but it has been getting worse. Last night, opening a can of refried beans was more than just a task, it was a travail. The decision to retire you was not made lightly.  I had hoped that you could pull it back together, but it was not meant to be.

I ordered a replacement. The sad thing is that the replacement from Swing-Away are now made in China, and had a slew of terrible reviews. Fortunately, someone is building the same design, with the old machines from the original Swing-Away company. It should be here Tuesday.

I will miss my old friend, but I will not forget it.

The search for good Mexican food

When we moved from Tucson to Chandler last year, the last thing I thought I would have trouble with would be finding a decent, authentic Mexican restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t like we were moving to Seattle, we were still in the southwest, and there are plenty of authentic people of Mexican heritage here. But it has been trouble.

Some background. Our first night in Tucson in 2003, we walked from the hotel about a block and into Casa Molina. It was Sonoran style Mexican food, and we loved it (they also made kick-ass house margaritas). We dined there all the time, and greatly enjoyed the cuisine. Not quite a hole in the wall, it was a family owned establishment, and had been a fixture on the east side of Tucson since 1947.

When we moved to Chandler, we started looking for our new Mexican restaurant. I tried Diegos (when I was commuting) in Mesa, and wasn’t impressed.  There was a little place not far from our house called Cafe Posada, that was passable (but not great. Anyone who puts carrots and peas in their spanish rice is meh). But they went belly up, and we had do hunt.

There are some great places that sell “street taco” style food.  Order and wait for it to come up, but that never really scratched the itch.

The problem isn’t that there aren’t Mexican restaurants, it is just that most of them are chains, and are too slick, too polished, and have so so food.

Last night, for our anniversary, we tried another place. Yelp! had it rated good (3.5 stars) and the reviews were good.  It is a local franchise, called Nando’s. The food was good, tasty, well cooked, and almost authentic. They have great margaritas, and we really enjoyed the decor.

We will certainly go back, often. But I am still looking for my “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant. My latest theory is that the part of the valley that we live in 20 years ago was pretty much all farmland. There aren’t many places that have been here 20+ years, to acquire that homey feel.

I am not giving up though.