We are finally settled down in North Chicagoland. And while I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing the Northwest, we are adapting to life in Waukegan. I love my new job and Sarah is doing well in medical school. Walter is having a tough time adjusting to the new environment, but our neighbors completely adore him, and he gets to go over to their house almost every day when Sarah and I are gone.
In memory of our time in Seattle, here is a shot of Wally and I at our favorite summertime hangout, Victrola on 15th. Notice that we are both sporting casual summertime facial hair and daringly open shirt collars.
Anyway, despite the lack of blog posts, I have been cooking up a storm here. I am completely loving our new neighborhood grocery store, which has an abundance of Latin American, Indian, Eastern European, and Asian ingredients, in addition to ridiculously cheap produce. Seriously, this place is so great that I really think you are 100% racist if you choose to go up the street to the Jewel. It gives me a great deal of class-solidarity pride to know that I can shop at the same grocery store as my students, most of whom come from families that receive federal aid.
So, roast chicken. I used my standard butterfly and high roast technique, but with a rub adapted from a recipe in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday. This chile-garlic-oregano rub is apparently similar to the “roadside” roast chicken vendors in Sinaloa, where you can buy half a chicken and some beans for a few bucks. While it was originally designed for the grill, it works just as well in a hot oven. I decided to add some sazon, a spice blend popular in Latin@ and African-American home cooking that features culantro and achiote (annato). You can buy packets of sazon in the Hispanic foods aisle of any grocery store (look for the section of Goya brand products) but it’s OK to leave it out as well.
While not traditionally Mexican, I served this with kale and roasted potatoes. You could just as easily heat up some corn tortillas and pass tomatillo salsa for making tacos at the table. As with any roast chicken meal, the leftovers are super-useful: we like to eat the leg/thigh quarters at our first meal, then wrap up the breasts to shred for use later in the week in fried rice, chilaquiles, salad, etc. You can eat the wings, or you can throw them (along with the bones) into a small pot of water for some impromptu overnight chicken stock.
So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself a chicken!
Mexican-Style Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Kale
- 1 tablespoon ancho, guajillo, or New Mexico chile powder (not chili powder! Look in the Hispanic foods section of the grocery store for the little packets of spices; they should be well under $2).
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- pinch ground cloves, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup orange juice (juice of 1 orange, or feel free to use bottled if you have it)
- 1 packet Goya sazon with culantro and achiote, optional
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large chicken, about 3 pounds
- 3 pounds red potatoes, cut into wedges (quarters or sixths)
- about 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 packet Goya sazon with culantro and achiote, optional
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- pinch crushed red pepper, optional
- 2-3 bunches any kale, leaves stripped, cut into rough chunks, and soaked in water for a few minutes, stems discarded
- about 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Mix together all the other ingredients except the chicken. You should have a thick paste. Taste it; it should be fairly vinegary and fruity, and a little spicy. Set aside in a small bowl. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, remove the backbone from the chicken and flatten it (see directions here).
Line a baking sheet with foil and set a cooling rack inside it. Lay the chicken on the rack, skin-side up. Using a brush and/or your fingers, apply about half of the rub all over the chicken. Pour about 1/4 cup water in the pan to keep the drippings from smoking.
Place in the oven on the top rack and roast for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, baste with the rest of the rub. Place back in the oven and roast for another 20-30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers about 170 degrees F (it’s also fine to peek with a knife). Remove and let rest for at least 10-15 minutes before carving.
Right after you put the chicken in the oven, toss the potatoes with the oil (I know this seems like a lot of oil – it is, but a lot of it will drain off later). Add the sazon and salt and toss until everything is nice salty orangeish-red hue. Place on a sheet pan, making sure that they are all in one layer, and slide into the oven (I like to put the potatoes on the rack below the chicken, but I don’t think the alignment matters too much). After about 20 minutes, pull the potatoes out and check on them; they should be deeply browned on the bottom and they should release from the pan without any scraping. If they stick, just put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Once the potatoes are browned on one side, toss well with a metal spatula and place back in the oven until the chicken is done. At this point the potatoes should be tender and crisp; if they are not yet browned on the second side, crank the oven to 475 degrees and cook another 10 minutes while the chicken is resting. Remove potatoes to a tray or plate lined with paper towels and drain briefly before serving.
While the potatoes are in the oven, cook your kale. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, garlic, and chile flakes, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Using your hands, remove handfuls of kale from the water it was soaking in and place in the pan (there will be some hissing at first, don’t worry). Add the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is wilted down, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the kale is tender. If at any point is seems dry, add a bit of water.
The timing works out really well with this meal. The chicken will come out first and has to rest for at least 10 minutes (it can go up to 20 minutes if your potatoes are running late or something). The kale can be held on low heat for as long as you need it, or you can skip the kale and serve a salad instead. By the time the potatoes are done, your chicken should be ready to be carved and the kale will be nice and tender. Serve with a couple glasses of wine or a few cold beers and congratulate yourself.