Jimmy Smits and his longtime companion, Wande De Jesus, not only created this succulent herb-roasted chicken and rice dish, they also named it "El Gran Combo" after one of their favorite Cuban bands, El Gran. The music connection when you know that their restaurant, La Boca del Conga Room, is an offshoot of the Conga Room, one of West Hollywood's hottest Latin dance clubs.
Amazing Chicken Recipes
3 tablespoons pure olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 habanero chile, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 whole chicken breasts on the bone, split
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup diced smoked ham
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 cups long-grain white rice (about 14 ounces)
1 cup drained canned pigeon peas (gandules) from one 14-ounce can, rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
How to Make It
In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with 1 tablespoon of the garlic, the habanero, oregano, thyme and a generous pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Spread the seasoning paste all over the chicken. Set the chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let return to room temperature before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Arrange the chicken breasts in a flameproof roasting pan and roast for about 20 minutes, or until just cooked through; the skin should still be pale.
Preheat the broiler. Turn the chicken skin side down and broil 8 inches from the heat for about 5 minutes, or until golden; rotate the pan occasionally. Turn the chicken over and broil for 6 to 7 minutes longer, or until the skin is golden and crisp; rotate the pan occasionally. Transfer the chicken to a platter, cover loosely with foil and keep warm. Reserve the roasting pan.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, bell pepper, bay leaf and the remaining 1 tablespoon of garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine to the saucepan and cook until nearly evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the rice and pigeon peas and return to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat until all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
Set the roasting pan over moderately high heat and add the lime juice, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken, then pour the pan sauce into a bowl, cover and keep warm.
Fluff the rice with a fork and serve alongside the chicken and pan sauce.
A fragrant, light white will tie the flavors of the food together. Consider a dry Chenin Blanc from California or a Vouvray from France.
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