Arroz Imperial (Imperial Rice)


½ chicken, skin removed
2 medium onions [divided use]
2 cloves garlic [divided use]
1-2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin [divided use]
salt to taste
oil as needed
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons tomato puree [divided use]
1 lb peeled shrimp
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons saffron or Bijol seasoning [optional]
2 cups dry white wine or beer
3 cups rice
2 cups mayonnaise
1 lb ham, finely chopped
3.5 oz. shredded mild white cheese, such as mozzarella or gouda
butter to greasen baking dish 


1. In a large pot or pressure cooker, place the chicken, 1 onion, quartered, 1 clove of garlic, bay leaf, ½ teaspoon cumin, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and salt. Cook until chicken is tender. Remove the chicken from the broth, debone and shred. Reserve the broth.

2. Heat a little oil in a skillet, and sauté ¼ onion, finely chopped, until soft and translucent. Add a clove of garlic, finely chopped, and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shredded chicken, paprika and a tablespoon of tomato puree. Cook for a couple of minutes, and set aside.

3. In a large pot, boil the shrimp. Add the boiled shrimp to a skillet with a bit of oil and ¼ onion, finely chopped, and sauté briefly. Set aside.

4. Heat some oil in a large pot, and sauté ½ onion, finely chopped, bell pepper, ½ teaspoon cumin, plus saffron or Bijol, until onion is soft and translucent. Add the rice and cook over medium heat, until the rice takes on an even color. Add wine or beer and 1 ½ cups of reserved chicken broth, and season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, until the rice is thoroughly cooked and most of the broth absorbed.

5. Apply butter a deep pan, casserole dish, or Pyrex bowl, and proceed as follows:

Spread a layer of rice about ¾ inch-thick at the bottom of the dish. Spread a layer of mayonnaise over the rice and then place a layer of shrimp. Firmly press down on the ingredients. Add another layer of rice topped with mayonnaise, and then place a layer of chicken. Add another layer of rice topped with mayonnaise, and then place a layer of chopped ham. Continue layering the ingredients in this fashion, making sure to cap everything off with a final layer of rice.

6. Slowly and carefully unmold the rice onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, covering as much of the top as possible, and bake in the oven at 325ºF for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and lightly browned.

Decorate the tray with chopped lettuce and place strips of bell peppers and/or hard-boiled eggs on top, if desired.

Let cool slightly before cutting into portions.

Note: Feel free to modify the ingredients used in the layers to your liking.



Photo courtesy of Yaima Batle


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