As a native Floridian with roots deeply embedded in Cuban heritage, my journey has been painted with vibrant hues of family, tradition, and of course, the aroma of sumptuous Cuban cuisine. Growing up in Miami, Florida, every week was punctuated with the scents wafting from the family kitchen, a testament to the love of food deeply entrenched in our culture.
For my family, food wasn’t merely sustenance; it was the cornerstone of our identity, an expression of our Cuban heritage that bridged the gap between generations. The echoes of laughter and chatter during our weekly family gatherings echoed the sentiment that the kitchen was truly the heart of our home, the place where stories were shared and traditions were upheld.
However, it was during the festive holiday our culinary legacy would truly shine. With a touch of nostalgia, I reminisce about the spectacular holiday events that would unfold at my aunt and uncle’s home. From Noche Buena to Navidad the air would fill with the fragrant spices of traditional roast pork with all the fixings: rice, black beans, warm Cuban bread, and flan for dessert. But it was during those special Sundays throughout the year that my aunt would delight us with her famous, Arroz con Pollo, a recipe that was handed down to me from my aunt before she passed away in 2018.
As 1 of 10 siblings, my father’s side of the family was the largest, most festive, and definitely the loudest side of the family. Filled with old stories of the days in Cuba, practical jokes, and lots of food. Reflecting on the mid-1960’s, I delve into the journey of my parents as they transitioned from their homeland, Cuba, to the United States, specifically, Miami, Florida. Their resilience and determination to preserve our cultural heritage shaped my understanding of the significance of our traditions. Through their stories, I gained a profound appreciation for the roots that anchored me, firmly connecting me to the vibrant tapestry of Cuban history and culture.
In Cuban tradition, every event, celebration, and milestones were marked by the joy of food. Birthdays were adorned with sweet pastries and delectable treats. From celebrations to those simple Sunday gatherings, food was more than a dish; it was an expression of love, an embodiment of shared values, and a tribute to the unity of our Cuban spirit for us first generation American kids gathered around the dinner table with our immigrant parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
In essence, my story is a testament to the enduring legacy of Hispanic heritage, passed down through the generations and etched in the recipes that graced our dinner tables. Through these fond memories and the savory flavors that continue to dance on my palate, I have come to understand that our love for food isn’t merely about sustenance – it’s about preserving the rich tapestry of our culture and keeping the flames of tradition alive.
Carrying on this tradition, I am delighted to share my late aunt’s cherished Arroz con Pollo recipe, a culinary masterpiece that continues to evoke the warmth of our heritage. Here’s how to recreate this family favorite.
- 3 cups of Valencia Rice (or) Long grain white rice if you can’t find Valencia
- 3 cups of water
- 4 chicken thighs (skin on for cooking, remove before serving)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Splash of olive oil
- 8 oz Hunts tomato sauce
- 2 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes
- 1 package of Sazon Goya with Azafran (Saffron)
- 8 oz of corn (frozen or canned)
- Goya jarred fancy red pimentos
- Splash of dry cooking wine (Vino Seco)
- Pinch of oregano
- Pinch of cumin
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 can of beer
In a large casserole add the onion, green pepper, garlic and olive oil. Add a pinch of cumin and oregano but not too much as it will overpower the dish. Once the onion/pepper/garlic mixed have cooked down, add the chicken thighs until browned.
Then add in:
- 3 cups of rice
- 3 cups of water
- 2 cubes of Knorr chicken bouillon
- 8 oz. of Hunts tomato sauce
- 1 package of Sazon Goya with Azafran (Safron)
- 1 8 oz. can of corn
- ¼ cup of dry cooking wine
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- ½ jar Red Pimentos cut up in strips
Cook on Stovetop on Medium-High Heat for 20 minutes (monitor and stir so it does not stick)
Cover casserole with foil and move to oven – bake at 350 degrees for a total of 30 minutes*
*At the 15 minute mark, add the entire can of beer and the remaining pimentos as a garnish.
Remove skin on chicken thighs before serving and enjoy!