Mexican Chicken Rice

Today’s recipe comes from John O’Neil, a frequent guinea pig for my cooking experiments. It’s a variation on the Hainan chicken rice recipe I wrote about in January. John realized that a few substitutions could change the dish from Asian to Mexican. It was so simple and obvious that I had to try it.

I gathreed my ingredients: cilantro, a four pound chicken, two cups of long-gran rice, two onions, a head of garlic, a large tomato, half a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon and a half of tumeric, half a teaspoon of oregano, and a jar of adobo paste.

Mise en place

I rubbed the inside and outside of the chicken with kosher salt, then I chopped two tablespoons of garlic and one of the onions and stuffed them into the cavity along with a good-sized bunch of the cilantro.

What? Chicken butt.

I set a pot with about three quarts of water to boil, then submerged the chicken. I covered the pot, reduced the heat to medium, and simmered the chicken. After ten minutes I turned off the heat and left the chicken to poach in the covered pot for two hours. I removed the chicken to a platter and let it cool.

Poached chicken

While the chicken poached, I made a sofrito by combining the cored tomato, the remaining onion, four cloves of garlic, and the oregano in a food processor until the mixture was thick and pulpy.


I simmered a cup of the sofrito (the rest is in the fridge) in a quarter cup of chicken fat over medium heat for about five minutes.

Simmered sofrito

I added the cumin and tumeric – my variation on John’s variation – and cooked for an additional minute before adding the rice. I toasted the rice/sofrito mixture for about three minutes, until the rice grains turned milky white.

Rice and sofrito

I added a quart of the poaching liquid and a handful of cilantro sprigs, brought everything to a boil, then covered and simmered the rice over low heat for twenty minutes.

Simmering rice

While the rice cooked, I prepared the adobo sauce. According to the jar, the paste gets added to water or stock in a 1:4 ratio. I tried this, adding two tablespoons of paste to half a cup of stock, and wound up with something resembling hot fudge. I added a second quantity of the poaching liquid, resulting in an 8:1 ratio.

Adobo sauce

I removed the chicken skin, and then separated the meat from the bones, shredding it into small pieces.

Shredded chicken

Once the rice was done, I removed the spent cilantro and gave it a good stir.

Finished rice

I tossed the chicken with some olive oil and salt, placed it over bowls of rice, spread the adobo over the top, and garnished the plate with some chopped cilantro. I also cut some lime wedges to serve with the dish.

Final plate

How did it taste? The rice was amazing; I’ll make yellow rice this way from now on. The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the adobo was very earthy. The lime wedges added some necessary brightness that the dish would have been missing.

I don’t think it would be worth making the sauce from scratch, there’s a huge amount of work involved. The same company also makes a three different mole sauces: brown, green, and pumpkin, which gives me addition variations to attempt.

In the end, I was surprised at how different the dish tasted from the Hainan version, just on the basis of some simple substitutions. It wasn’t a classic arroz con pollo since it lacked saffron in the rice and the chicken wasn’t browned before cooking. But, given how little effort was required to make it, I’ll add it to the monthly recipe rotation.

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2 Responses to Mexican Chicken Rice

  1. JO'N says:

    Actually, I used mole rather than adobo, but it’s good either way. I put some cumin in the poaching liquid (and thereby indirectly into the rice and the mole). The only other difference was that I happened to have thighs rather than a whole chicken, but I like how that turns out with Hainan chicken, too.

    • David says:

      I wanted a sauce analogous to the chile/ginger/lime sauce I use for the Hanan version, so I chose the adobo because of the hot peppers.

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