Imperial” Chicken and Rice

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Imperial” Chicken and RiceWhen we were in college, Greg and I met our buddy Ray Hechavarria. Ray is Cuban and he once got bonked on the head by a falling coconut. He’s fine. One day, I was invited to his home and his mom cooked for us. His mother is a terrific cook. Arroz con pollo, chicken and rice—a simple, delicious stalwart of Latino cuisine. Many years later, I learned of “Imperial” chicken and rice, which basically takes arroz con pollo and bonks it on the head with a coconut. This dish is incredibly crazy but undeniably delicious.

  • Yield: 8 to 10 Servings
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes


  • 3¼ cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional for yellow coloring)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups jasmine or other long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 10 Tbsp mayonnaise, divided
  • 6 oz ham, thin slices
  • 12 oz Muenster cheese, thin slices
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, thin strips
  • ¾ cup green olives, pitted
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 1½ - 2 lb chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1½ tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup green peas, canned, drained or frozen, thawed
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium pot on the stove, bring the broth, turmeric (if using), 1 teaspoon of salt, and rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
  3. To make the filling, in a small mixing bowl, coat the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and paprika.
  4. Massage the chicken to spread seasonings evenly. Transfer the chicken to a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. While the rice and chicken cook, place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and pepper with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until the onion edges begin to brown. Add the garlic and tomato paste and continue to sauté for 3 minutes. Add the wine and allow it to reduce completely, about another 5-7 minutes. Stir in green peas and black pepper. Turn off the heat.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven, and shred with two forks, clean hands, or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Stir the chicken into the cooling skillet mixture.
  6. Lower the oven to 350°F.
  7. To assemble the casserole, coat the bottom and sides of a baking dish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Layer half of the cooked rice in the bottom of the baking dish; flatten and compress with the back of a spoon or spatula. Smear 5 tablespoons of mayonnaise evenly atop the rice. Place the chicken mixture atop the mayonnaise, followed by a layer using half of the Muenster cheese and half of the roasted red peppers. Then, form another layer using the second half of the rice, the remaining mayonnaise, a layer of ham slices, and finally a layer of Muenster.
  8. Transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and has barely begun to brown. Remove the casserole from the oven, garnish with roasted peppers and green olives, and serve hot. Squeeze of lime juice? Sure.

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