Arroz con pollo is one of those classic Latin American dishes that everyone needs to try at least once in their lifetime. It includes two dinnertime staples: both arroz (rice) and pollo (chicken). I turned to a trusted source, the Food Network, to make it for the first time. This recipe from Melissa D鈥橝rabian, host of Ten Dollar Dinners, had a five-star rating with more than 90 reviews, which seemed like a pretty good ratio for giving it a try. Here鈥檚 what I learned after trying to make arroz con pollo for the first time.

I may leave the chicken skin on next time. Real talk 鈥 when D鈥橝rabian鈥檚 recipe calls for 鈥渃hicken, skinned,鈥 I had to steel myself. I originally bought the first package of tasty looking thighs at the supermarket without thinking, and mine had the skin on it still. It turns out the process of de-skinning chicken is relatively simple 鈥 you just pull the skin taught and slice it off as you go. It seems D鈥橝rabian鈥檚 recipe is a departure from the norm as arroz con pollo is usually prepared with the skin on. While the chicken came out juicy and flavorful thanks to the spice rub used beforehand, I feel like a crispy, seasoned skin on the outside of these thighs would only improve upon an already delicious dish (as well as save my fingers 鈥 my knives are not good enough to repeat the skinning process).

Arroz con pollo鈥榮 great for leftovers. D鈥橝rabian鈥檚 recipe for arroz con pollo makes about four hefty servings, meaning it鈥檚 a wonderful make-ahead meal. I ate it for at least four more meals throughout the week, and it reheated well every time. The thighs and rice were tender and flavorful, and because D鈥橝rabian swaps seasonings and tomato sauce for any saffron or stewed tomatoes, the recipe itself is easy to follow regardless of your skill level. The garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper combined perfectly for just the right amount of kick that you could taste all the way through the dish 鈥 from the chicken to the rice to the veggies. I loved the way these spices came together and would definitely try this rub in other chicken recipes.

There鈥檚 room for a little creative improvisation. My stovetop could probably power a NASA rocket. Because I did not adjust D鈥橝rabian鈥檚 instructions to account for the mini volcano I was cooking on top of, I definitely burnt my version a little bit. Luckily, arroz con pollo is one of those homey dishes that has room for forgiveness. I just considered my crispy rice a little creative flair.

Overall, the best part of cooking this recipe was trying a new combination of flavors in my own kitchen. That jar of cayenne has been sitting on my spice shelf for I don鈥檛 even know how long, and I would鈥檝e never thought to mix it with cumin. And of course, I didn鈥檛 mind that my tiny little studio smelled like amazing arroz con pollo for the rest of the afternoon.

Get the full recipe here:Melissa D鈥橝rabian鈥檚 arroz con pollo

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(Photos via Melanie Burke / Brit + Co)