Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr 15 mins
A tasty Cuban chicken and rice casserole called Arroz Imperial (Imperial Rice) but made low carb by using grated cauliflower instead of rice. There are as many recipes for Arroz Imperial as there are cooks that make it. In that respect it is like a Shepherd's Pie or Pâté Chinois. Ham, chorizo and shrimp are routinely added, like you would with a paella. An entire casserole is often purchased for take-away from small Cuban restaurants and served for parties along with other dishes. What is unique about this recipe is that it uses grated cauliflower instead of rice, reducing the calories and carbs significantly. The "rice" is then more seasoned than usual to look and taste like the rice you would have with a traditional Cuban arroz con pollo. The use of mayonnaise may seem odd but it adds greatly to the flavor and creaminess of the dish, and in the end is less mayonnaise per serving then you might have in a serving of tuna fish salad.
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 lbs skinless chicken breasts
- 1 lime, juice of
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 head raw cauliflower (5-6-inch dia)
- 4 tablespoons frozen green peas
- 1 green bell pepper
- 4 ounces tomato sauce
- 8 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 large raw onion
- Making the Chicken.
- Wash chicken and place in stock pot. Add enough water to cover meat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the meat is tender and falls from bone – approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove chicken and keep the broth which you will use to make the cauliflower rice.
- As an alternative, you can purchase 1-2 cooked rotisserie chickens depending on their size. Pull apart the meat and use the chicken bones to make the broth. You need about 3 lbs of meat.
- When completely cooled, skin and shred the chicken into small pieces by hand or with two forks. Be sure to check the meat with your hands so as not leave any small bones, cartilage or tough pieces in the mix.
- In a large pan, cook the bacon and discard the excess fat. Chop the bacon and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ onion, chopped, ½ green pepper, chopped and sauté until onion is translucent. Add 3 garlic cloves, diced and sauté for another minute. Add shredded chicken and 4 oz tomato sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add lime juice and mix. Set aside.
- Making the Cauliflower Rice.
- Remove and discard leaves and larger stems from the cauliflower head. Break florets apart, rinse and spin dry. Remove smaller stems and separate. Grate the cauliflower florets with a hand grater or food processor grater attachment (much easier). Coarse chop the smaller stems and run through food processor grater as well. Otherwise, you can also discard the small stems. Combine into a microwave safe bowl with two bay leaves and microwave on high for 6 minutes, covered. Remove the bay leaves.
- In a Dutch oven or large pot, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ onion, chopped, ½ green pepper, chopped. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add 3 diced garlic cloves and sauté for another minute. Add one cup of chicken broth and ½ cup of beer (optional). Add one tsp each of oregano cumin. Add 1 tsp of Bijol, saffron or other yellow colorant such as achiote. Add cooked, grated cauliflower and stir well. Simmer covered for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasional until cauliflower is tender. Add the frozen peas during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.
- It is OK to have some fluid left in the bottom of the pot. Just transfer the cauliflower to a mixing bowl avoiding the fluid at the bottom; then mix in ½ cup of grated Parmesan.
- Assembling the Casserole.
- In a 9” x 13” baking pan or casserole dish, spread one 1/3 of cauliflower rice along the bottom of the pan, patting it down firmly.
- Spread 2 tbls of the mayonnaise on top of the cauliflower rice.
- Spread ½ of the chicken mixture to create the next layer, patting down firmly.
- Sprinkle ¼ cup of Parmesan over the chicken.
- Add another (1/3) layer of cauliflower rice.
- Top with 2 tbls of the mayonnaise.
- At the final layer of chicken sprinkled.
- Sprinkle the last of the parmesan.
- Add the final layer of the cauliflower rice, patting down firmly.
- Spread remaining 2 tbls of mayonnaise.
- Spread the grated Monterey Jack, or other mild cheese over the top of it all.
- To recap, these are the layers:.
- 1) Layer of Cauliflower Rice.
- 2) Mayo.
- 3) Layer of Chicken.
- 4) Parmesan.
- 5) Layer of Cauliflower Rice.
- 6) Mayo.
- 7) Layer of Chicken.
- 8) Parmesan.
- 9) Layer of Cauliflower Rice.
- 10) Mayo.
- 11) Monterrey Jack.
- Place in oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese is melted.
- There are a variety of ways to present the dish. Red pimento strips and slices of hard boiled eggs are often used to decorate the dish. A search for "Arroz Imperial" on Google Images will give you lots of ideas.
- Serve hot with a side salad, tomatoes or avocado slices. For those not on a low carb diet, the dish can be served with fried sweet plantains. Makes 8 meal-sized servings.