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Bienvenidos a Los Dos: Recipes

About Chef David Sterling
 

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CHARCOAL BROILED CHICKEN IN ACHIOTE MARINADE

ACHIOTE, OR BIXA ORELLANA, is a spice that grows prolifically in the tropical lowlands of Mexico's Yucatán peninsula. The early Spanish conquerors noticed the Maya's use of the bright red seed to stain their skin, their clothes, their food – not to mention to provide a pungent taste to their meals. Post-conquest interpretations include sour orange (naranja agria) to dilute the crushed seeds into a thick marinade. Orégano Yucateco, garlic and Old World peppercorns intensify the mixture. Once the chicken is marinated and grilled, it is typically shredded finely for a variety of uses such as in tacos and tamales. But it is equally delicious carved and served as you would any chicken. The brining process is a more modern spin that greatly enhances the flavor and tenderness of the bird. Conversations with a dear friend, ardent cook and willing guinea pig in New York led us to add some optional vegetable oil to our recipe. It seems that Stateside chickens don't have as much fat as Mexican birds!
 
10 servings

• 4 quarts (4 liters) cold water
• 1/2 cup (130g) salt
• 1/2 cup (130g) sugar
• 5 whole allspice berries, crushed
• 10 whole peppercorns, crushed
• 1 medium chicken, about 3 lbs (1.5 k), halved

STEP 1  DISSOLVE THE SALT AND SUGAR in the water. Crush allspice and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and add with chicken to the brine; refrigerate 4-5 hours. After the brining process, drain and rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. Discard the brining solution.

• 8 Tbs. (120ml) recado rojo or achiote paste
• 8 Tbs. (120ml) naranja agria juice (Substitute: 2 parts lime juice, 1 part each grapefruit and sweet orange juice)
• 2 Tbs. (30ml) vegetable oil (Optional)

STEP 2  DISSOLVE THE RECADO ROJO in the juice. Use a fork to mash and mix the paste thoroughly with the juice. Add more juice if necessary to achieve the consistency of thick cream. For moister meat, add the optional oil and stir to combine.

• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and charred
• 1 Tbs. (15ml) coarse sea salt
• 1 tsp. (5ml) black peppercorns
• 2 Tbs. (30ml) orégano Yucateco, lightly toasted (Substitute: 1 tsp/5ml ground Mexican oregano)

STEP 3 IN A MOLCAJETE OR MORTAR AND PESTLE, coarsely grind the oregano, cumin, garlic, peppercorns and salt. Add to the recado mixture and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Pour over chicken and allow to marinate until time to grill. (NOTE: If using homemade recado rojo, you may omit this step.)
 
STEP 4  LIGHT A CHARCOAL GRILL or wood fire. Grill chicken for 20-30 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 170˚F (77˚C). Remove from grill and allow to cool. Remove meat from bones and shred; alternatively you may cut into individual serving pieces.

* Available commercially packaged in Mexican groceries or the ethnic sections of supermarkets.

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