Cinco de Mayo is in one week. I’d planned to give you a week’s worth of margarita recipes but I spend too much time locking my keys in the car and walking the two miles home in my heels to actually get around to doing that. Hopefully I’ll produce one or two drink-poo ideas before the big day but today is meant for grilled chicken instead.
I’ve been nuts about Pollo Frito a la Criolla ever since Adrianna wrote about it some months back. She had made the recipe from The Cuban Table, Ana Sofia Pelaez’s beautiful cookbook (just nominated for a James Beard Award, no less). It is chicken marinated in a mojo sauce and fried with onions—basically everything I love about Cuban food.
I had fully intended on making the dish as is, but then on Sunday it was so beautiful and sunny that the urge to grill was just too, too much. I kept the sweet, sour marinade of fresh squeezed orange and lime juices (even better with Seville orange juice if you can find it) ground cumin, and garlic but then grilled the chicken instead.
I had a whole chicken and cut it up into four pieces (this is easiest if you cut out the spine first) but if you want to use all chicken thighs, or breasts, or whole legs that would work too. Just make sure it’s about three pounds of chicken total. Boneless, skinless chicken would work too, but the cooking time will be about half of bone-in, skin-on chicken.
This grilled version was a big hit with the under-six crowd. Hiro (who is especially fond of chicken legs) cleaned off two down to the bone, which is as good of a sign of recipe success as this house ever gets. The above-thirty crowd was about as in love with this recipe as we are with almost all Cuban food, which is to say madly and deeply. A whole chicken typically doesn’t get eaten in its entirety in one sitting, but this one sure was.
- 1 (3-pound) chicken, cut into 4 pieces or 2 skin-on, bone-in legs and breasts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 1 cup Seville orange juice or ½ cup orange juice and ½ cup lime juice
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 large onion, sliced into thick slices
- Season chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in a 9 x 13-inch non-reactive baking dish.
- In a blender combine measured amounts of salt and pepper, Seville orange juice (or orange and lime juices), garlic, oregano, and cumin. Blend on high until smooth.
- Pour marinade over chicken and top with onion slices. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-low heat. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip back into the dish. Grill, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. During the last 15-20 minutes of cooking time, add onion slices to the grill and grill onions until tender and lightly charred.
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