Flavors of Cuba: Arroz Con Pollo and Ropa Vieja

Wayne share’s his version of two popular Cuban dishes

In celebration of the Cuban festival happening this weekend, I decide to share my take on two popular dishes, arroz con pollo and ropa vieja.  I learned to make a Puerto Rican style arroz con pollo last year from Zoraida Sambolin.  This version uses a few different spices but still has a rich and complex flavor.  I’m not sure which one I like best. 

I also visited Café 28 this week for a little inspiration.  Check out the video of my visit and then check out the restaurant for yourself!

Cuban Azzoz Con Pollo
(chicken with rice)


1 lg Chicken, cut into pieces

1 tsp Dried Oregano

1 tsp Ground Cumin

1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/4 cu Fresh Cilantro, loosely packed, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tbl Olive Oil
1 tsp Annatto Seeds (Achiote)

1 sm Onion, finely chopped

1 sm Red Pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic, minced

1 Plum Tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 pinch Oregano
1 pinch Cumin

2 cu Chicken stock

1-1/2 cu Beer
1 tsp Annatto Seeds
2 cu Water

2 tbl Tomato Paste

2 cu Arborio Rice

1 cu Frozen Peas

Additional Fresh Cilantro, for garnish


Cut any excess fat off of the chicken parts.  Wash and dry the pieces and place them in a sealable plastic bag.  Combine oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro and garlic in a bowl and mash ingredients together.  Pour over chicken pieces and shake the bag to distribute evenly.  Seal the bag and marinate chicken for 1 hour or longer.

Heat oil and annatto seeds in a large pot over high heat until seeds start to sizzle. Remove from heat and strain away seeds.  Return the oil to the pot and bring to a high heat.  Remove chicken from the marinade and brown pieces on all sides in the hot oil, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion, pepper and garlic.  Saute for about 2-3 minutes until ingredients soften.  Add the tomatoes, oregano and cumin and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more.  Return the cooked chicken to the pot and saute until flavors are blended, about 2-3 minutes, being sure that heat is not too high.

In a separate pan, combine beer, chicken broth and annatto seeds.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain away the seeds and add the liquid to the chicken along with the water and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Lightly mix ingredients and add rice.   Cover tightly and simmer until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  If mixture seems to be drying out, add more water or chicken stock.  About 5 minutes before removing from the heat, add frozen peas and toss until well combined. Arrange on a platter family style and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Ropa Vieja
(Spanish for old clothes)


To Make Annatto Oil (if you can’t find it in the store):
1/4 cu Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp Annatto Seeds (Achiote)

Meat Preparation

2 lbs Flank Steak
2 tbl All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 Lg Onion, roughly chopped
2 Green Onions, chopped, including the green parts
1 Carrot. roughly chopped
2 Celery Stalks, roughly chopped
1 lg Green Pepper, quartered and include seeds
1 clove Garlic, crushed
1 Bay Leaf

Stew Preparation

2 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 lg Jalapeño, chopped (seeded if you don’t want the extra heat)
1 Green Pepper, finely chopped
1 med Onion, finely chopped
1 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Dried Cumin
1 1/2 lbs Plum Tomatoes, seeded and pureed in a blender
2 cu Reserved Beef Broth (from slowed cooked flank steak preparation above)


Make the annatto oil: Heat olive oil and annatto seeds in a pan until seeds start to sizzle.  Remove from heat and strain oil. 

Prepare meat:  Mix flour with salt and pepper.  Cut flank steak into 3 or 4 large pieces and dredge each in flour mixture.  Heat 2 tablespoons of annatto oil in a pan and over high heat and sear flank steak for about 2 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and transfer to a large pot.  Add onion, green onions, carrot, celery, green pepper, garlic and bay leaf.  Add enough water to cover ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 2 1/2 hours, adding additional water if level gets too low. 

Remove meat from pot and set aside.  Strain the liquid from the pan and set aside.  When the meat is cool, use two forks to shred it into stringy pieces. 

Meanwhile, heat the remaining annatto oil in a pan over medium low heat and sauté the garlic, jalapeño, green pepper and onion until ingredients are tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Add oregano, chili powder, cumin, tomatoes and 2 cups of the reserved beef broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and add shredded beef.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes, adding more broth if ingredients begin to dry out. 

Serve with rice, black beans and fried plantains.

If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email at wayne@waynesweekend.com or follow me on facebook.

Contact Us