This dish is inspired by arroz con pollo, a deeply flavored rice and chicken dish that is the quintessential Latin American comfort food. Each country has its own tweaks, but at its core the essence of all arroz con pollo is similar— flavor forward, and a dish easy enough to feed a whole family.
In this recipe I’ve substituted fregola, the toasted pasta from Sardinia for rice, and shallots for the typical onions. I’ve omitted the traditional bell pepper but added sliced grape tomatoes because I think they compliment the fregola. Although this dish is in no way traditional, it’s also not that far from it— I’ve kept the peas, which are a must in any Puerto Rican arroz con pollo.
If you can’t find fregola, pearl couscous is good sub.
1 + 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 container grape tomatoes
1 cup fregola
1/2 cup frozen peas
fermented Calabrian chili
Remove the chicken form the refrigerator. Toss it with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and the paprika, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and salt. Allow it to sit out for 10 minutes so it looses its chill and marinates.
Slice the shallots thinly, mince the garlic, and slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise.
In a large dutch oven or similar pot with a lid heat two Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Brown the chicken thighs, about 1-2 minutes on each side, then set them aside on a plate.
Sauté the shallots until they start to caramelize— If they stick a little scrape the fond (the caramelized bit at the bottom of your pot) and fold it back in to the shallots. Once the shallots are wilted add the garlic. Stir, then add the tomatoes halves. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, 4 cups of water, and stir— you can use the can to measure the water since it’s 8 ounces.
At this point I added 1 teaspoon of the calabrian chili paste and 1 Tablespoon of sherry vinegar, which made the dish medium hot. This is entirely optional.
Stir in the fregola and peas, then layer the chicken thighs on top and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat and remove the lid. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
Once you remove the lid you’ll want to stir every once in awhile. As the water gets absorbed into the pasta and evaporates some of the fregola will start to stick, just like the rice would.You’ll want to scrape the bottom with a wooden spoon and fold it in as that starts to happen. Start checking for doneness about 12 minutes after you added the fregola by taking a little bite. You want it al dente but definitely cooked.