Great Moments in Grilling: Mexican Roadside Chicken


I've never been to Mexico, 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.

The recipe for Pollo a las Brasas con Cebolitas (Grilled Roadside Whole Chicken with Knob Onions) can be found in Bayless' Mexican Everyday cookbook (see the complete recipe online here). If you missed it, this was Bayless' contribution to the spate of easy/fast/quick cookbooks published by major chefs in response to the Rachael Ray phenomenon. If this one got lost in the shuffle, that's too bad, since it simplifies (in a good way) what would otherwise be extremely complicated and challenging Mexican dishes.

The prep is fast-going. The only complicated step (though really it isn't) involves flattening the chicken. I like to take kitchen shears and slice through the back of  the chicken on both sides of the backbone. Remove the bone, flip the chicken over, and as Bayless instructs, "wallop the bird on the breast" with either your fist or a mallet to dislodge the center bones and flatten the breast. Thud.

The marinade, which colors the chicken a deep red, can be made almost exclusively with ingredients from the pantry: dried ancho chile powder, cloves, cinnamon, cider vinegar, and oregano (the only fresh ingredients you will need are garlic and a little orange juice). What's more, the marinade does not require extensive time to sink in. Smear the chicken all over and by the time the grill is heated, it's ready to go.


What's critical is to follow Bayless' directions regarding indirect cooking. If you are using a gas grill, that means turning off the burner directly under the chicken. After 45 minutes, you'll end up with a juicy chicken that is crisp on the outside rather than dried out, usually the bane of grilled chicken. It's a great dish for a large group, since you can easily double the recipe to two chickens without doing much extra work.

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.



That looks like a great dish. I love the way spatchcocked chicken turns out.

Do you think I could leave the cinnamon out, or is it an essential ingredient?


I think the cinnamon is essential (as are the cloves). It gives it a very distinctive flavor.


This looks awesome, simple, delicious, and flavorful. I haven't been to Mexico either, but I sure know how to enjoy Mexican FOOD!!!


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