During spring we focus a lot on seasonal ingredients, which is a great practice, but sometimes we lose sight of the ingredients that we use year-round, such as chicken.
Now and then we need a reminder about the versatility of our year-round ingredients to avoid culinary boredom.
Few ingredients are more taken for granted than chicken.
Sometime in the early 1980s, the lowly chicken breast was championed as the fix-it for traditionally high-calorie foods. Now, it’s hard to find a burger joint that doesn’t offer a grilled chicken breast on its menu. That same breast is also common in stir-fried dishes and salads nationwide.
I’m not hear to cast stones at the chicken breast but to remind you that the whole bird has a lot to offer.
Sherrel Jones has shared her favorite fried chicken recipe, and inside we have variations on the roasted bird from culinary icons. For my part, and in honor of Cinco de Mayo, I’m sharing my Pollo Asado recipe.
As a teen, I frequented a restaurant in Austin, Texas, that served only this spatchcocked chicken rubbed with achiote paste, fresh flour tortillas and a selection of salsas. The name was Pinch-A-Pollo.
For my version, I create what I call a chile putty.
It can be cooked in the oven or on the grill.
To spatchcock a chicken, use your kitchen shears or a very sharp chef’s knife to split the bird up the backbone.
Splay the bird open and cook breast-side up over a gentle open flame or over indirect heat in a gas grill.
Serve it with grilled green onions, pickled red onions and spicy Chile de Arbol Salsa this Cinco de Mayo, and you will make amigos for life.
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut along the backbone and spread wide
1 cup chile putty, recipe below
1/2 cup achiote oil, recipe below
•To prepare the chicken, use kitchen shears to cut along the backbone. You may also use a sharp butcher’s knife. Remove giblets and liver if present, spread wide on a chopping block and cover with wax paper.
•Using a meat pounder, hammer straight down on the breast to flatten the bird.
•Salt and pepper thoroughly, then smear chile putty all over chicken and place breasts side up. Try to maintain heat between 320 and 350 degrees. It will take about 45 minutes for the bird to reach 165 degrees. After 30 minutes, brush the achiote oil all over the skin and close grill for last 20 to 25 minutes. This will help crisp up the skin.
•Serve with tortillas, grilled green onions, spicy pickled red onions and Salsa de Chile de Arbol.
Cook’s notes: Rub green onions, especially those with the hearty whites known as knob onions, with remaining achiote oil and a little salt. Grill the last 5 to 10 minutes with the bird.
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (you may use 2 tablespoons regular chile powder rather than these two powders)
1 tablespoon chimayo chile powder or other hot chile powder
1 tablespoon achiote powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
Salt and pepper
•To make chile putty, combine all ingredients. Set aside.
1 cup vegetable oil
1 glove garlic
2 tablespoons achiote powder
Pinch chile de arbol or cayenne powder
•Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Allow to steep at least 20 minutes, longer if possible. Do not let oil simmer. If it gets close to a boil, remove from heat and cover.
Pickled Red Onions
3 red onions, sliced very thin
3 to 6 serrano chiles sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
8 to 10 black peppercorns
2 to 3 whole cloves
•Bring vinegar and all ingredients except peppers, onions and orange juice to a boil in a saucepan.
•Place onions, peppers and orange juice in a heatproof, resealable container. Once vinegar is at full boil, add to onions, peppers and orange juice.
•Mix well, allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.
Salsa de Chile de Arbol
15 to 20 chiles de arbol
2 cloves garlic
2 roma tomatoes
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cups water
•Roll chiles between your hands to remove as many seeds as possible.
•In a small sauce pan, bring water to a boil and add chiles, tomato and garlic. Boil 20 minutes.
•Move chiles, tomato, garlic, vinegar and 1/4 cup of water from saucepan to food processor. Puree until smooth, add salt and pepper to taste. If too thick, add a little more of the water until you reach desired consistency.
•Run through a sieve to remove any chile skin pieces. Seal and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.