The humble chicken is revered in Mexico. Not ever having been there, I didn’t really know this. Until I did some research recently for a job involving, well chicken. It’s massively popular street food over there with gigantic street barbeques laden with whole chickens in double-digit numbers dotted about the place. The Mexicans call it Pollo Asado. Recipes differ wildly but most have two things in common: 1) the meat is spatchcocked or, as we charmingly refer to it, a flattie and 2) the flattie is marinated for a considerable while beforehand.

Citrus features in the marinade for most recipes. Some use orange, some lime. Coriander features too, along with oreganum. Paprika also pops up in places. I looked at loads of recipes for Pollo Asado, and then went ahead and did what I always do – conjured up my own. When I think Mexican, I think pillowy-soft warm tortillas, barbequed corn, salsa, coriander, chilli and of course… tequila! So here it is, my take on Mexican Pollo Asado. It’s smokey with paprika, lively with a chilli bite, and cheeky with a tot or two.

All you need is…

Marinade
1 tsp finely crushed garlic
4 sprigs oreganum (or 2tsp dry oreganum)
¼ cup olive oil
juice of one orange
zest of one lime
Pollo Asado basting sauce
1 tsp garlic
½ cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
4 tbs tequila
3 tbs soft brown sugar
1½ tsp smoked Spanish paprika
juice of one lime
1-3 red chillies, roughly chopped
1½ tsp salt
bunch of coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

Place the spatchcocked chicken in a large ziplock plastic bag. (See TIPS, TRICKS AND TRIVIA below for how to spatchcock a chicken in under 20 seconds! I kid you not, it’s so easy my cat can do it.) Add the marinade ingredients to the chicken. Squeeze out the air, zip it up and massage the chicken gently. Place in the fridge to marinate for at least two hours, taking it out every half hour or so to give it another gentle massage.

In the meantime make your Pollo Asado basting sauce. Simply add all the ingredients together, cover and place in the fridge for the flavours to get to know each other.

You can go about braaiing (that’s barbeque for my foreign readers) this Pollo Asado in one of two ways.

METHOD 1: INDIRECT
My preferred method of braaiing any biggish piece of meat is indirect in a kettle braai – aka the lazy cook’s way. Simply use those handy Weber baskets to make two briquette fires and place them opposite each other against the sides of your Weber. The middle stays clear and this is where your Pollo Asado chicken flattie rests. Your fire is ready when the briquettes have burned down and started turning white. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on the grill. Cover with the lid and walk away for 20 minutes. Then you can start basting with the sauce. You could take your chances and start basting sooner, but as there is sugar in the sauce, it will most likely start burning, giving you an acrid black-bits vibe I do not enjoy at all. You do NOT need to turn the chicken if you cook it this way. Cooking time depends on the size of the chicken and your fire, but give it a stab in the thickest part of the meat after 35 minutes. As soon as the juices are running clear and not pink, it’s ready and should come off straight away.

METHOD 2: DIRECT
Once your coals are ready, spread them evenly over your braai grid. Place the chicken directly over the coals. Once again allow it to braai for a bit before you start basting. You will need to turn the chicken a few times if you cook it this way. Tip: I don’t use braai tongs to turn a whole spatchcock chicken as it invariably rips the skin and sometimes even breaks up the bird. Instead I use two long steel burger flippers (one beneath, one on top) to turn it over gently.

Serve with warm tortillas, sour cream, coriander, lime wedges and a basic salsa made of corn, finely chopped spring onion and diced tomato drizzled lightly with olive oil and lime juice.

serves

4

marinade

2 hrs

cook

35-50 min

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tips, tricks and trivia

How to spatchcock a chicken

This truly is stupid simple people. Simply flip the chicken on its back. For those of you who don’t know what the back of the chicken is (no judgement) it’s the part that’s flat, not the part that’s rounded. You want the flat part on the board and the rounded part (the breast) facing you. Take a good, sharp pair of kitchen scissors of a very sharp chef’s knife. Run your fingers down the centre of the chicken. You’ll feel a bone. This is the breast bone.

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Stick the scissors in at the bottom of the chicken and cut all the way to the top on the one side of this bone. Repeat the procedure on the other side. Tug out the bone. Turn the chicken over so its flat back faces you. Place your palms on the back and press down firmly. You may hear a bone or two crunch. Try not to squeal like a girl. You now have yourself a spatchcocked chicken. As you get better at this, you’ll do it in under 10 seconds, guaranteed.

enjoy with

My choice with this is DeMorgenzon’s DMZ Chenin Blanc 2016. I like De Morgenzon (for my foreign readers this means ‘the morning sun’) for various reasons. For starters, they make fine wine. Part of the Stellenbosch wine region, DeMorgenzon has a unique terroir with its slopes rising from about 200m above sea level to as high as 400m. Now if you know something about wine, you know that the cooling effect of altitude is particularly desirable in warm regions like Stellenbosch. It allows DeMorgenzon to craft wines with expressive New World fruit but also the restrained elegance of the Old World. The combination is a bit of a winner in my book. Classy without being snooty. Restrained without being boring.

Their DMZ Chenin Blanc 2016 has a lovely nose of green apple, apricot, peach and hints of honey along with some floral notes. On the palate it’s rich and complex. At 14% alcohol it also packs a bit of a punch. At the time of publication it’s available online at R98 per bottle. Now I know we have cheap Chenins coming out of our ears in SA. There is nothing wrong with a whole lot of them. Many are simple, fresh marvellously quaffable braai companions.

But if you’re looking for something more complex, a showcase of what a bit of care can do to the humble Chenin grape, then the DMZ Chenin Blanc is well worth exploring. It’s a little bit special. After all, what else do you expect from vineyards that have baroque music piped to them 24/7?

DeMorgenzon

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