Thu Jul 5, 2007
I'm heading down to Houston for a quick visit to celebrate Kristin's Mom's birthday. Houston always means non-stop delicious Filipino food, as her Mom tends to feed us constantly. Lost in my thoughts of the tocino, empanadas, and adobo that are sure to grace my plate in the next few days, I remembered a remnant of the Filimeato Feast that never seemed to make it to the blog. Call it laziness or lack of time (I'm sticking with the later), but my intended post about Chicken Inasal was never written. This by no means is a reflection on the status of the dish, and it's about time I give another piece of Filipino cuisine the time in the spotlight it deserves.
Besides being a back-up in case the Filipino BBQ went horribly wrong, Chicken Inasal was mostly an excuse to make achuete oil. I only learned of achuete while in the Philippines, when I inquired about the bright orange color of the most delicious adobo I ever had while eating it on the beach in Puerto Galera during a day of island hopping. I was sure the answer would lead me to the secret behind great adobo, but when I was told the color was merely food coloring by annatto seeds, I was still intrigued none-the-less. I bought a jar of annatto right when I got back, put it on top of my fridge and there it has sat, unused, even though I had an urge to make achuete oil every time I saw Daisy Martinez do it on Daisy Cooks, a fine program indeed.
I made the achuete oil based on the recipe from Memories of Philippine Kitchens, which adds some bay leaves, garlic, and chiles into the mix, which I figured could only make it that much better. So all the ingredients went into a sauce pan and I heated the oil just until the annatto seeds started to bubble, then turned off the heat and let it cool for an hour or two. Then straining the oil into a mason jar, I beheld the beautiful red and fragrant oil I created, that will color many dishes to come.
Chicken Inasal might have been an unusual choice for a back-up, because the couple times I've had it, it's always been dry and rather tasteless. Armed with with my chicken expertise, I figured I could change that though, and create a chicken that was moist, tasted of the great calmansi, and had the fragrance of the achuete oil. First step was to let the chicken quarters marinate 24 hours before grilling, getting as much great Filipino flavor into the meat as possible. Second step was making sure the chicken did not dry out on the grill, which can happen easily. The best approach to avoid a dry bird is to build a two zone fire, with all the coals on one side of charcoal grate, creating "hot" and "cool" sides of the grill. I cooked the chicken on the cool side of the grill, covered, until they were almost completely cooked, about 160 degrees in the thigh. Then I grilled them quickly over the hot coals to crisp the skin and raise them to their final temperature of 165 degrees.
The end result was a moist and delicious grilled chicken that, unfortunately, did not retain the flavors of the marinade. I was really hoping for something that tasted of the sublime citrus flavor of the calamansi, but I guess I needed to up the calamansi for that, or maybe mine was just too weak, not being freshly squeezed (where can I find fresh calamansi in NYC anyway?). The chicken was still a hit, but played seconds to my Filipino BBQ that ended up stealing the show. I guess I ended up forgetting about this chicken in my excitement of the sweet bbq success, but it's not the chicken's fault, so please don't lay blame on the bird and try some Chicken Inasal for yourself.
Adapted from Memories of Philippine Kitchens
1/4 cup achuete oil (recipe below)
3 cloves gralic, minced
3 tablespoons of calamansi juice, or regular lime juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or coconut vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken leg quarters
Mix all marinade ingredients in a nonreactive bowl. Place chicken quarters in a large ziplock bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag and toss, covering chicken pieces evenly with the marinade. Open and reseal bag, removing as much air as possible. Allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Light one chimney of charcoal, and when lit, dump out and assemble all the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Place chicken on the cool side of the grill and cover. Cook until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the deepest part of the thigh.
Right before eating, place chicken quarters back on the grill, directly over the hot coals. Cook until the skin is nicely browned and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from grill, allow to rest for 5 minutes, and serve.
From Memories of Philippine Kitchens
2 cups of vegetable oil
1/2 cup achuete (annatto) seeds
6 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 ancho chiles, crushed, stemmed, and seeded
Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, warm the oil until it begins to bubble around the achuete seeds. Promptly remove from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer and let cool. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.