Wed May 11, 2011
I'm back! You may have never known I was gone—except you astute observers who noticed a lack of a new recipe last week—but I was speeding through the awesomely surreal landscape of West Texas, making a few good barbecue stops along the way, which was immediately followed by the wedding of Meatwaver extraordinaire Mike when I returned. Although I may have been away from the computer (thank god), my mind never wandered far from the Meatwave. As I found myself hiking in 100 degree weather in Big Bend, peering into Mexico from the banks of the Rio Grande, I was remembering this roadside chicken, which was not only one of the best chickens I ever made, but one of the best I had ever eaten.
What made this recipe all the more outstanding was it started as a mere afterthought—on a day I was prepared to make skirt steak fajitas, I realized at the last minute that one Meatwaver was not of the beefy persuasion, and ran out and grabbed a bird and flipped to this recipe from Mexican Everday, which was the final straw for this oft-used book that turned into a collection of loose pages that day.
I combined the wet rub for the bird that consisted of ancho chile powder, oregano cloves, cinnamon, garlic, cider vinegar, orange juice, and salt. Sure it sounded like a tasty combo, but nothing as earth shattering as I would later find out it would become.
I brushed the butterflied bird with the rub and put it over the cool side of a two-zone fire and let it roast over medium-heat until the breast meat hit 165, about 45 minutes.
During this time, I kept the lid close, so the absolutely beautiful bird that emerged was a complete surprise. The drool was flowing when I feasted my eyes on the picture-perfect, mahogany-skin that the rub created.
Once the bird was taken off the grill, during the painful rest waiting to get the first bite, I was only able to keep my grubby fingers off it by occupying myself with grilling a bunch of green onions that would be served alongside the chicken.
Finally, time to eat, and the feast for the eyes quickly gave way to its succulent flavors—an earthy and acidic combination enlivened by the chicken's juiciness, all of which paired very nicely with the green onions. The recipe also called for tomatillo salsa, which I did have, but there was so much flavor packed into that chicken itself, there was little need for anything additional, even though it did add even more greatness. I already knew I loved Mexican food, but if this is what's considered "roadside" food across the border, next time I'm that close to this culinary mecca, I may have to cross that river and indulge in more of these delights!
Mexican Roadside Chicken
Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
A big pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus a little more for the onions
1 large chicken, about 3 lbs, butterflied
2 large bunches of green onions or knob onions
A little olive oil for brushing the onions
Grilled tomatillo salsa, for serving
1. Light a chimney 3/4 full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, mix chile powder, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, vinegar, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of slat together in a small bowl.
2. When the charcoal is fully lit and covered in gray ash, pour coals out and arrange them on one side of the charcoal grate, keeping the other side empty. Place the chicken over the cool side of the grill, skin side down, and brush exposed side with the wet rub. Flip the chicken over and brush the other side with the rub. Cover the grill and cook, basting occasionally with any remaining rub, at 350 degrees until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast, about 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. While the chicken is resting, brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt. Place the onions over the hot side of the grill and cook until tender and browned, about 5 minutes per side.
4. To serve, cut the chicken into quarters, top with green onions and tomatillo salsa.