Man Survival Guide: Arroz con Pollo Recipe

Believe it or not, it really isn’t that hard to cook you just have to be motivated to do so. Most men have this stigma that they cannot cook and rightfully so. In the traditional Latino family I grew up in, the men are generally catered to by the women. Of course, I grew up with mostly women in my life so I have been privy to a lot of good food. But I never learned to cook from any one of them.

It was my dad who got me interested in cooking. It was no secret in my family that my dad cooked better than my mother. I would even venture a guess that outside mi abuelas, he was one of the best cooks on both sides of the family. I remember telling my friends in grammar school that my dad was a chef in the Navy, which was a lie but at the time I thought it was the truth. The truth is, he learned from his mother and has been been cooking ever since.

When I started to live with him at sixteen, he would instill in me one basic principle: you do not need a woman to survive. He was hell bent on teaching me how to clean, do laundry, and cook. I think he was secretly grooming me for college because it was a hilarious sight to be in a residence hall laundry room and watch guys mess up their clothes one load at a time. Ironically enough, I didn’t really care to learn about cooking but I ended up grasping all the things he showed me anyway.

My father also believed that if I can cook for a woman that my single days would be heaven. I cannot confirm or deny this, but I will say that women can be generally impressed by a man that can throw down in the kitchen. So in college, I decided to take a cooking class because there was some basic stuff that I just could not seem to get. This is where I was able to really understand the science of cooking. Granted, it was only one class but it made me respect it so that I wouldn’t randomly burn any thing down.

Since then I have mainly cooked mainly for survival purposes. Every now and then I would cook for someone but it was never for the art of it. When I got married, I felt I didn’t need to cook because she did it well enough and often enough that I just disregarded it. I know it got to the point where she questioned if I could even cook and I would just laugh and make some pasta. However, it was after the divorce that I truly began to see the benefits of having some culinary skills.

Every so often I have talked about my survivor mentality and my desire to make more money. Much of this is due to the fact that finances are not what they were and I have had to come up with ways to save money. One of those ways to stop getting take out. I have also talked about how fast food just doesn’t do it anymore but how I can truly stretch my dollar and eat somewhat well on a daily basis. I have come to find out is that if you shop smart and on somewhat consistently, the savings can be felt almost instantly. I wont get into the frequent trips to the dollar store because that would be a whole separate blog, but needless to say you can get just about anything if you go to the right place. The smart consumer should just rely on the basics.

The best thing for me is just to make enough food to last for 3-4 days. I have gotten really good at it and    it is some thing that I can eat it over and over without having to worry about dinner or spending money.  This week’s treat for me is Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice). The reason this works is because this is a basic meal that you can have come out of one pot. For a man that relies on himself that is ideal.

Arroz con Pollo y Maduros

This is my basic recipe:

Ingredients:

A small pack of Chicken Breast (3 pieces is ideal)
2-3 cups White Rice (Medium or Long Grain)
A small can of Corn
Vegetable Oil
Sofrito (A Spanish cooking base that contains peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, etc)
1 tsp of Salt
2 packs of Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote (Coriander & Annatto)
Goya Adobo

I start with cutting the chicken in to small bite size chunks and trimming out the fat.  I usually season the chicken after I cut it with Adobo. Lightly coat a medium skillet with vegatable oil. Add 3 tbsp spoons of Sofrito and let it simmer for a few minutes until the pan is hot. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until the chicken chunks are a light brown. Lower heat.

Standard Caldero

I usually cook my rice in a medium caldero, so coat the bottom of that pan with Vegetable oil. I don’t measure this but if I had to I would say 1/4 cup. Turn the fire on medium then add the can of corn. It is very important to save the water from the can so make sure you drain that into a separate cup. Add 3 tbsp of Sofrito, 1 tsp of salt, and the 2 packs of Sazon Goya. Give that a stir and let the corn cook for 2-3 minutes. Mix 2-3 cups of white rice (wash it first). Now I know that may sound weird to put dry rice but the purpose is to mix everything first before you add the water so that your spices do not end up on the bottom. Once you hear it sizzle, then add 3-4 cups of water and turn the heat up to high.

Note: People usually make rice different than me and that is fine, but in these case you should at least know HOW to make rice.

This is the point where you add the chicken. Be careful not to dump it all in at once thus splashing everywhere. Add the sauce created as well. Mix in the water from the corn. You want to mix this well because you want the chicken to not only cook with the rice but you want the chicken on all levels of the rice not just the top. Cover the pot. Once the water is at full boil (and you will hear it because steam will cause the water seep from under the lid and hit the fire) turn the heat to low and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes.

If you did not add enough water you will be able to tell. I check it about 20 minutes in. If the rice is hard…just add small amounts of water. If you added too much…you better take a large spoon and start dumping…lol

The final result will be great! I hope you enjoy. I know I did. Let know what you think! (The check out my Huffington Post blog from this week)

P.S. I bought the Frozen Goya Maduros. Microwave 3 minutes.

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A Simple Cooking Lesson

I absolutely love to make French Omelettes. This is something that I have learned to do years ago when I took a cooking class during my Sophomore year. While there are many things that I can cook, nothing really satisfies me more than to make a French Omelette because it symbolizes something to me. It was a lesson that I had to learn years ago on the consequences of being over confident and the how to deal with failure because of that.

When I took this class, I was quite confident that I would pass this course with what I considered to be an easy A. The class itself was not hard. You had to listen to tapes on cooking about safety and cooking temperatures among other mandatory lessons. The “lab” portion was cooking in the the kitchen with rest of the class. It was good to take this class with a friend because then you had a lab partner. When I looked over the syllabus I had a feel of how the semester would go. There were things that seemed to be very simple to me. We cooked meats, baked cakes, and even made ice cream from scratch. All those were easy…until we got to omelettes.
I have always taken some pride that I know how to cook something as simple as eggs. So when it came time to make the French Omelette, I knew I was golden. Eggs are probably one of the easiest things to make. It doesn’t take much time to cook and you can do so many things with it. I felt I had this in the bag. The only thing to me that I had to be concerned with was burning the eggs. So, I made sure that my stove was not on high. The thing is that we were cooking with electric stoves and not fire so cooking can be a bit of a challenge.  The problem was that I had the burner on too low and mistimed myself which resulted in problems with me folding it. 
We are not talking about a complicated omelet. This was just one fold. There are other types of omelets that are folded twice or even tree times depending on the preference of the chef. So with the my miscalculation, I could not complete the fold. It broke apart and I was not happy. I failed the lab that day, in fact I ended getting a B- in the class as whole. This was definitely a case of being so overconfident about something and it comes back to bite me in the ass.
Since that time, it has always bothered me that I failed that egg lab. Every chance I get to make a French Omelette, I nail it. I have made it with one fold and two folds. I get better at this dish every time I make it. It is a reminder to myself that I can move on and learn from something that I failed at. I also have to continue to remind myself to stay humble. Over confidence is something I cannot fall victim too. 
The problem that I have with this is that the line between over confidence and lack of confidence is so blurred. I know that I can do anything I put my mind to. I have done it time and time again in my professional life and in my personal life. It is one thing to know how good you are but it is often hard articulate it without sounding pompous. Confidence can be as delicate as the eggs I am cooking with. Sure, I may know what I am doing, but one little mistake and it can break apart.
Looking at my interviews I have had over this past year, I am beginning to wonder at what point did I become over confident or not confident enough. In either case, I am going to keep trying until I get this right.