July 20, 2008

Rick Bayless' Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken

On Saturday night, we had some friends over to our house to swim and have dinner. I decided to make one of my new, favorite Mexican dishes that I gleaned from my new, favorite cookbook, Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless. Have I mentioned before that I deeply love this book??? Well, I do. I really do. Since we had several dishes with our meal, I will have to do a few posts (following this one) for each individual dish. The main item was Rick Bayless' Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken (aka "Sinaloa" Chicken). It is grilled awesomeness. So, so good. I also made some pinto beans, homemade salsa, roasted potatoes, and a green bean/carrot vegetable dish to round out our meal. All in all, dinner was great. By the end of the evening we were all very full and very happy people.

I also must mention the highlight of the evening. My friend Claire (who has her own blog Cooking Claire) brought a dessert that we have both been dying to try called Pioneer Woman's Apple Dumplings. Oh man! These were fantastic...actually, beyond fantastic. My vocabulary is not big enough to describe how absolutely fan-freakin'-tastic these apple dumplings actually were. You are just going to have to take my word for it and make them yourself. As if the dumplings were not delicious enough as it was; Claire made homemade whipped cream to go with them. I almost went into a dessert induced coma. So, so, so good.

So below is the grilled chicken recipe. Stay tuned for the others!

Rick Bayless Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken
Serves 4.

For the marinade:
1-1/2 tablespoons ground Ancho chile powder
1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
A big pinch of ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
3 tablespoons vinegar (apple cider vinegar gives a Mexican flavor)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp salt

1 large (3 lb) chicken (sometimes called a large frying chicken, or a small roasting chicken)
About 1 cup roasted Tomatillo Salsa, for serving

In a small bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.
Heat one side of a gas grill to medium. If you have a grill with three burners, heat the outer two to medium, leaving the center one off. Or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash and about medium-hot; bank half the coals to one side of the grill, half to the other.

While the grill is heating, remove the giblets (if there are any) from the cavity of the chicken. Flip the chicken onto its breast. Using poultry shears, cut down both sides of the backbone from tail to neck; discard backbone. Or, if you don't have shears, lay the bird on its back, insert a long heavy knife into the body cavity and press down hard with a rocking motion to cut down through both sides of the backbone. Open the bird out onto your work surface, breast side up. Make sure that the legs are turned inward. Using your fist or a mallet, wallop the bird on the breast, hard enough to dislodge the center bones and flatten out the breast. Twist the last joint of the wings up over the breast and then down behind the "shoulders," tucking them in firmly to keep them in place during grilling.

Smear both sides of the chicken with the marinade. Lay in the center of the grill (it will not be over direct heat). Cook, without turning, basting from time to time with any remaining marinade, until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced deeply with a fork (an instant-read thermometer should register about 160 degrees when inserted at the thickest part of the thigh), about 45 minutes. If you're cooking over charcoal, you'll want to add more charcoal to the fire after an hour or so - the internal temperature of the grill should stay at about 325 degrees. Remove the chicken to a cutting board. It will lose less juice if you cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into quarters (or smaller pieces). Transfer a portion to each of four dinner plates and you're ready to serve. Pass the salsa separately.

Jen's Notes:
The original cookbook version of this recipe includes instructions for grilled knob onions. I omitted the grilled onion portion, since I chose not to make those for this particular meal. I have made the grilled onions in the past, and let me say that they are worth the extra effort. The onions are a perfect accompaniment to the chicken.

I read somewhere that preparing a chicken in this manner is sometimes called 'spatchcock' (i.e referring to the method). The husband loves this term. Whenever I make this dish he gleefully runs around (for at least three days before and after the meal) randomly shouting "SPATCHCOCK!" in a very strange voice. It is quite funny.

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