While a special event or gathering will have most people scrambling for ideas for what food to serve, the Cuban people already have an answer: Arroz Imperial, also known in the rest of the world as Cuban Lasagna!
Delicious layers of golden rice mixed with mayonnaise, chicken and soft melty cheese are the main components of this traditional Cuban dish. With a little love and patience, the result of this labor of love will be well worth it!
- 1 ½ kg chicken breast or thighs
- 2 l water
- 2 onion medium-size, finely chopped
- 2 carrots medium sized, cut into chunks
- 2 celery sticks cut into chunks
- 6 garlic cloves peeled
- 6 slices bacon/ ham cut into slivers
- 4 cups rice
- 3 oz tomato paste
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 cups mild white cheese
- 1 large bell pepper finely chopped
- 1/4 cup sliced pimento olives
- 1/2 cup green peas frozen
- 7 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 garlic cloves
- olive oil for cooking
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lime juiced
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons Bijol seasoning or same amount of paprika powder
- Start preparing the chicken first. Wash the chicken meat thoroughly and place it in a deep pot. Add about 2 liters/ 8 ½ cups of water to cover the meat and set it over a high flame.
- Add in your carrot and celery chunks, 1 onion and 2 whole garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer until the meat has cooked through.
- Transfer the chicken to a separate dish to cool and take out and discard the vegetables. Keep the broth for when we cook the rice a little later. Shred the chicken using a fork.
- Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and fry the bacon or ham until done to you liking. If you have too much grease left over after this you can drain most of it away.
- Now add in the chopped onion, bell pepper, oregano and bay leaves and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Crush the remainder of the garlic and stir it in for another minute or so to release its flavor.
- Next, add the tomato sauce and shredded chicken along with a splash of water and heat up until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until thickened.
- 10 minutes into the sauce cooking add in the frozen peas and sliced olives and season to taste.
- When the chicken sauce is done, set it aside.
- Now it's time to make the delicious fluffy rice. Put the rice in a pot and pour in the chicken broth (the proportion of broth to rice is 2:1, so make sure you have about double the amount of broth to rice).
- Add 2 healthy teaspoons of Bijol seasoning, place a lid over the pan and simmer for about 20 minutes until the rice has cooked and absorbed most of the liquid .
- Gradually add the mayonnaise and incorporate it into the rice until evenly mixed.
- Preheat your oven to 325° F/ 162° C and begin assembling the Arroz Imperial!
- Line a baking dish with parchment paper (one you usually use for making lasagne should be great) and spoon in 1/3 of the rice in even layer. Add a layer of chicken (half the total amount of chicken mix) , followed by another layer of rice.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan cheese on top, then continue with the remaining chicken and the last third of the rice over it. Cover with the remainder of the parmesan and finish off with 2 cups of grated mild cheese, distributing it evenly over the surface.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and bubbles and the edges have browned.
- Enjoy your amazing Arroz Imperial and make sure to invite your family and friends too. There's plenty to go around!