Chicken and Saffron Arroz Caldo with Spring Onions, Fried Garlic Bits, Boiled Egg, Chicken Skin Chicharrones and Calamansi
If I am to be asked about what dish I would happily eat repeatedly for a month or two, in a heartbeat, I will definitely say, Chicken Arroz Caldo. It is the one and only soup dish, but really more accurately, a savoury and chickeny rice porridge, that comforts me, even comforts my spirit, and by this I mean, that this dish is warming, hearty, fills anyone up real well and quite blissfully, eases the suffering of anyone who is sick, and really, to me it is my kind of Chicken Soup For The Soul… my soul.
Arroz Caldo (Spanish for rice soup) is a Hispanicized or Spanish version of the Chinese’ Congee. It is Hispanicized because of the addition (traditionally) of safflower or kasubha in Tagalog (a cheaper and more abundant counterpart of the much proper and expensive saffron… but obviously I decided to be a bit posh and used Saffron in this) use to colour the porridge, and black pepper along with the aromatic trifecta of garlic, onion and ginger sauteed along with morsels of chicken or beef to which a Chinese congee is deprived of.
And although this rice soup/porridge dish is Chinese in inspiration and Spanish in adaptation, this is spot on natively Filipino in taste… I call this Filipino soul food.
This dish is one of the first things I made myself learn how to cook when I was a teenager only because I wanted so bad to cook it whenever I want it. It is one of my favourite humble foods to eat most of the time… any time.
I never often asked my mother or grandmother (when she was still alive) to teach me how to cook certain dishes, I just avidly watched them prepare the ingredients, and the steps or stages they went through cooking every dish from start to finish. And in making this particular dish, I learned from both my grandmother and mother, that the best rice to use in Arroz Caldo is glutinous rice because the starchiness of this variety of rice helps thicken the soup much more gloriously than the regular variety. Also, it is crucial for this dish that the rice is totally puffed or cracked because texture wise, it is much more better in the palate than munching on whole al dente rice grains.
I will not give the recipe for this as I always make it in a large stock pot. But here is the procedure; In a stock pot, put this ration of 1:3 glutinous rice to hot chicken stock with either safflower or in this case, saffron threads infused in the stock. Place pot over high heat and wait for the rice and stock to get to a boil, then turn down heat to medium-low and gently simmer rice. Meanwhile, in a sautepan, saute finely chopped ginger in canola oil for 3 mins over medium-high heat, then add finely chopped onions, sweat onions for 3 mins, then add finely minced garlic and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant. Add either cut up chicken pieces or chunks of chicken breast fillets, and saute with the aromatics until cooked. Transfer sauteed chicken into stockpot with simmering rice. Mix together and season with salt (or fish sauce, optional) and fresh cracked black pepper. Continue simmering the soup/porridge until liquid has slightly thickened and rice is puffed or cracked.
Serve piping hot in bowls and top with thinly sliced spring onions, fried garlic bits, sliced hard boiled eggs and either chicken skin chicharrones or crushed pork cracklings (optional) and serve with calamansi halves or lemon wedges on the side.
Quick Saffron and Seafood Rice with Chorizo
In a way, this is very similar to Paella, but I do not want to call this even a Quick Paella because I strayed away from the traditional and complete ingredients of the proud Spanish dish and well, I don’t want my dear friend Laura who is very Spanish and the one who sent me the packets of saffron powder I used in this dish to disown me… which I know won’t happen, because she loves me no matter what. But then she is Spanish and I don’t want to commit any sacrilege towards their national dish.
I made this just a couple of hours ago for Saturday night family dinner. And I cooked this as quickly as I can because after a day of cleaning house I just want a very speedy yet quite special dish to serve to my family.
I used basmati rice and omitted tomatoes or any tomato by-product, it’s the reason why I cannot, for the life of me call this Paella… anyways, this tastes delish and whole family was happy.
3 cups basmati rice
6 cups hot chicken stock
pinch of saffron threads or pinch of saffron powder
(in my case, I used one small sachet of saffron powder equivalent to a pinch as well)
1/2 pound large shrimps, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound squid, cut into 1/2 inch rings
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1 foot long link of chorizo, medium dice
1 large white onion, small dice
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of half a lemon (to marinate shrimps and squid rings)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (for frying chorizo as well as sauteing the onions and basmati rice)
2 tablespoons butter (for sauteing the garlic, shrimps and squid separately)
salt and pepper to taste
lemon wedges (to serve on the side)
1/2 cup parsley, coarsely chopped (to sprinkle on top)
- Marinate shrimps and squid in lemon juice, salt and fresh cracked black pepper for 5 minutes.
- Put the saffron threads or saffron powder in hot chicken stock, stir and set aside.
- Place a large skillet (preferably a skillet with a bit of height) over medium heat and add olive oil. Fry diced chorizo until a bit of the fat renders in the pan and mixes in with the olive oil tinting it with a gorgeous red-orange colour. Remove fried chorizo bits from the oil and set aside.
- Add onions into the tinted oil and saute until soft. Add basmati rice and saute for 5 minutes just barely toasting it. And then pour the saffron infused hot chicken stock.
- Wait about 2 minutes for the mixture to boil before reducing heat to low to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until rice is done (either preferred al dente or just perfectly tender but not mushy and overcooked).
- While the rice gently cooks, place a skillet over high heat, add butter and garlic. Saute garlic until fragrant and soft (but not browned) and add the marinated shrimps and squid along with the green olives. Saute for 3 minutes or until shrimp curls up and turns orange (do not over cook shrimps and squid or both will be tough and chewy… which will just ruin the dish). Set the sauteed seafood aside (still in the skillet).
- When rice is almost done, add the fried chorizo nuggets and sauteed shrimps and squid rings along with the bit of pan juices rendered. Toss the mixture with two forks.
- Top with chopped parsley.
- Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Makes 8 servings