I didn’t intend to post another chicken recipe so soon after the last one, but you never know what’s going to turn out great and what’s going to flop. This chicken was actually meant to be a warm-up for a different barbecue project, but, I tell you, this marinade was absolutely delicious. I don’t want to forget what I did, so I’m putting my notes here instead of my usual random sticky notes all over the house that will attach themselves to the backs of other things that will surely end up in the trash.
Basically, I made a slurry of cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and hot peppers and slathered it all over the chicken. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. This was the first time I’d spatchcocked a chicken, which means to cut the backbone out of a whole chicken and press it flat. You literally cut along either side of the vertebrae with sharp kitchen shears (save the bone for stock) and splay the legs and wings out. You can also wrap a brick in foil and set it on top of the chicken to keep in flattened while it cooks.
This technique worked really well on the grill. The fresh Mexican flavors were perfect for last week’s heat wave, and the kitchen stayed blessedly cool.
BBQ Chicken a la Mexicana
If you don’t have chipotle powder, you can use some liquid from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or sub in a hot sauce of your choice. If you don’t have ground annatto (also known as achiote), and I’m guessing most of us don’t, you can find it with the spices in the ethnic section of the supermarket. Badia is a good brand. Otherwise, you can omit it or add an equal amount of chili powder or paprika. It’s not an exact substitution, mind you, but it will surely produce something delicious.
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or parsley, if you prefer)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice from 2-3 limes
1 jalapeño, stem and seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground annatto
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. chipotle powder (or more to taste)
Puree everything in a food processor. Rub all over a 3-4-lb. chicken (for a demonstration on how to spatchcock a chicken, click here). Let the chicken sit in the marinade for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better the flavor.
Set up a charcoal barbecue with the hot, ashy coals on one side. Barbecue over indirect heat (350-375°F if you can manage it) for 45 minutes to an hour until cooked through or until the temperature registers 165°F in the thickest part of the breast. I gave it 20 minutes skin-side-down near the heat and then flipped it over to the cooler side of the grill to cook it the rest of the way. You can use a foil-wrapped brick on top of the chicken breast to keep it flattened while cooking if desired. I also threw in some soaked hickory chips every 20 minutes or so.
One note for next time: I should aim the neck side of the chicken toward the heat instead of away since the thickest part of the breasts (not the thighs) took the longest to cook in this configuration.