Ready in 4 hours
I haven't been to Mexico since childhood, so I haven't had the chance to pull over and taste a roadside "Sinaloa"-style chicken, but thanks to Rick Bayless, I've mastered grilling a beautifully blackened, spicy, smokey, and succulent bird in my backyard, well north of the border. This easy, delicious dish has become a summer standby. There's a lovely flavor combination of earthy and acidic that is only enlivened by the chicken's juiciness.
Bayless suggests serving the chicken alongside grilled knob onions (grilled scallions will also do). Even better, heat some corn tortillas while you're at it for wrapping pieces of the meat tableside with a dose of tomatillo salsa.
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Splitting the chicken for grilling: Using a large knife or kitchen shears, cut down both sides of backbone of 1 chicken, through the joints where the legs attach, then on through the ribs; remove the backbone. Open the chicken out flat on your cutting board, skin-side up, press on the breastbone to loosen it so the chicken will lie flat. For the nicest presentation, make a small incision through the skin toward the bottom of each thigh and press end of the nearest drumstick through it; this will hold the leg in place as the chicken is grilled. Repeat with the second chicken, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels, then lay them in a noncorrosive bowl.
Puree the orange juice, onion, garlic, herbs and spices in a food processor or blender. Pour over the chickens and rub to coat them thoroughly. Cover tightly or close the bags and refrigerate at least 4 hours (or, preferably overnight), turning the chickens several times.
Prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium. Remove the chickens from the marinade. Lightly spray the chickens with oil and place them on the grill skin side up. Cover and grill for 20 minutes. Baste chickens with marinade, then turn chickens over. Continue grilling, basting occasionally with the remaining marinade, until thigh juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 15-25 minutes more.
Remove the chickens to a cutting board and cut each in half. Serve garnished with grilled green onions, if you wish.
The key to this recipe is to keep the chicken away from the coals, which is hard when the chicken takes up almost three fourths of the grill. I'd assume most people won't have any problem.
Timing and Advance Preparation Spend 1/2 hour preparing the chicken and marinade at least 4 hours ahead; it will take 1-1/4 hours to finish the dish, a good part of it spent waiting on the fire and the chicken. The chicken may marinate for a couple of days, but its texture will be best when grilled just before serving.
Traditional Variations Grilled Chicken with Another Flavor: Prepare the recipe as directed, using the following marinade: pulverize 1/4 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoons black peppercorns, 1/2-inch cinnamon stick, 1/8 teaspoon whole cloves and 1 bay leaf, then mix with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon mixed herbs, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 cup vinegar and 4 roasted cloves of garlic (peeled and mashed to a paste).
Contemporary Ideas: Cornish Game Hens a las Brasas - Substitute 3 or 4 game hens for the chickens: split and marinate them as directed, then grill them for 25 to 30 minutes.
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