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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pollo by the pool

Since we just celebrated Cinco de Mayo or the celebration of the victory at the battle of Puebla (in Mexico and not Mexican Independence day) This shared Mexican and American holiday brings up a wonderful culture of Mexican cuisine, and since my theme this summer is outdoor cooking, I think Pollo, chicken in Spanish, has a proper place in Grilling Epicness.
Many of us fear two things when cooking chicken; Burning with fires caused by dripping fat, or , not cooking enough and giving all your family and guest salmonella.
I think these two go hand in hand due to the unlucky few who make these easily corrected mistakes when cooking chicken on the grill.
When getting your charcoal or gas grill ready, make sure you cook chicken by the indirect heat method, meaning not putting your chicken right over the heat source. "But Chef Dave what about those beautiful grill marks that look so appetizing?!?!" Do not fret Mr. have to have all your food look like it came from the pages of Gourmet or Food Arts, you can still sear those grill marks into your chicken on the hot side and move it to the indirect side to finish cooking and soaking up that grill flavor (smoke if you are using lump charcoal and wood chunks, which I highly recommend) This cooking method give you the safe oven method and the yumminess of cooking over flames all the while keeping the dripping fat from igniting and turning your chicken into a scorched yet raw piece of carbon.
Now on to the flavor! There is a reason everything nondescript and bland tastes like chicken, because to me that's what chicken tastes like if cooked without a little help from herbs, spices and marinades.
Poultry that has to stand up to a high heat and retain moisture and has a low fat content like a most white meat on poultry could benefit greatly from a soak in a brine. This not only helps to keep the moisture in the meat in but also allows it to be flavored from the inside out through osmosis.
Many have been jumping on the brined turkey bandwagon during thanksgiving, but never stop to think that the same process can help the chicken they eat all year round.  The wonderful thing is they have been grilling chicken and grilling it over mesquite and other woods in Mexico for years! And this Pollo preparada is some of the best chicken I have ever eaten. Now the Mexican grilled chicken joints are national chains here in the US from this same age old process, you can make this amazing chicken right on your grill with some simple steps.
The Brine; I use this formula, adjust the amount ratios based on how much chicken you are cooking and make sure the chicken parts are completely submerged
one part apple cider vinegar
two parts orange juice (cheap stuff is fine)
one part lime juice
3 parts cold water
half part salt
add adobo powder*, cumin, cut limes halves, black peppercorns, and garlic powder to taste.
Allow to soak in the refrigerator, in an airtight container (I like to use freezer bags with a container underneath to prevent leaks) for a minimum of 6 hours
*adobo powder is a seasoning mix of spices and salt that is readily available in most supermarkets, Goya makes a great version that contains cumin. Can be used with seafood, fish and pork also, usually yellow in color

Grill until the meat is firm and has reached an internal temp of  *165F, I prefer to buy chicken on bone with skin intact for more flavor but with the brined chicken even boneless skinless breasts stay moist.
Serve with corn tortillas and a mango or a green tomatillo salsa!
So lively up your pain old chicken and enjoy the summer sun, PROVECHO! (enjoy in Spanish)
If you need any assistance with cooking or for more detailed recipes and questions feel free to ask in the comments below, and remember…KEEP IT REAL, KEEP IT FRESH, AND KEEP IT SUSTAINABLE!

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