Thousands of great food photographers exist in the world, but lately I’ve been admiring the work of Steve Giralt. His self-published cookbook titled, “First Generation Cuban-American“, displays some of the most interesting and different food photography I’ve ever seen. Food pictures are usually so overtly happy, sunny and bright. Steve’s pictures are a total divergence from the normal cheery path; beautifully lit, but with very serious, dark tones. He uses old, beaten up props and darkly dyed textiles in hues of navy, steel, and rust colors to give an overtly masculine feel to every shot. Steve (can I call you Steve?) places a pop of color in some of the shots, like green limes or an orange egg yolk, which totally catches my eye and makes me want to look closer and find more details. It’s as if every shot is a beautiful still life painting. He has done impressive work for various magazines and big name ad campaigns, but when a photographer self-publishes photos and recipes that mean so much to his heritage, you get a sense of what he really likes and wants to shoot, you know? Check out this fish, it’s just beautiful. Not only do I want to have a seat at Steve’s table if this is what he’s serving but I also must someday cook this whole baked snapper!
Since it was freezing cold again this week, I opted for Steve’s Arroz Con Pollo, or “rice with chicken” for a warm and deeply flavorful meal. I honestly don’t think I changed much in this recipe except for using less oil and salt. The Hubs gives it two thumbs, WAY up. This recipe serves a lot, like maybe six people or even more, depending upon how hungry they are. You will have leftovers. The Hubs was still eating and raving about it a week later (no matter how good, I say “no” to leftovers after day 3 in the fridge)!
This recipe begins where many great recipes begin, with browning the meat. Preheat your oven to 350. Wash and pat dry the chicken pieces (I cut up and used an entire chicken), make sure they are brought up to room temperature, and salt and pepper the skin. I left mine out of the fridge for an hour. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high in a large Dutch oven and sear both sides of the chicken, until deeply browned, about 6-8 minutes per side.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onions and peppers over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until just barely translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer, or until onions are fully translucent.
Make sure you uncork some dry, white wine you’ll want to also drink because this recipe only calls for 1/2 a cup! I opted for a lovely sauvignon blanc gifted to me at my birthday party by two of my favorite peeps.
Mix everything well and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken back to the pot along with the rice, crushed (mortar & pestle) saffron, chicken broth and many cranks of fresh black pepper. Turn up the heat until the ingredients are boiling, then remove from the heat, add the beer, cover, and place in the oven. Bake covered at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, or until liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir the pot a few times while it’s baking in the oven. Serve chicken over rice and garnish with cilantro. Muy buena!
Arroz Con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
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- 1 whole chicken, cut into parts
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 large Spanish onions, finely chopped
- 1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, zested
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped pimento pepper
- 3 – 4 bay leaves
- 1 chicken bouillon cube, crushed
- 6 oz of tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 5 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 pinch of saffron threads, ground to powder
- 12 oz pale ale or pilsner lager beer
- salt & pepper to taste