Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicken you can eat without the need of Salsas

I don't know why people overcook chicken. Must be because unless you cook it until it is one step before jerky you can't be sure that it will kill all. Yes you can be sure it will kill all, all the flavor, the taste the moisture and any possible hint at fantastic nuances of delicious chicken that actually is better than the birds in the US.

The nice golden yellow birds here in Mexico are loaded with flavor. Please don't cook the hell of of them. It is a little tricky to cook them, but with your understanding and skill the end result will greatly be appreciated by not only you but your guests! Assuming you have invited guest to savor your new recipe!

First of all, if you purchase a chicken, whole (entero) you will need to cut it up into pieces. The easiest way is to chop off the little wings, use the wing tips for stock or take the wings of and freeze them until you have a couple of dozen of them so you can make buffalo wings, or you can cook them if you like but take them off early. ( because they are small and don't cook at the same time)

Cut the thighs and drumsticks off the bird, then take some kitchen sheers and cut the back out, save for stock, then what is left is the breast. Take a sharp knife and thrust it into the breast bone and cut that in half. (unless you want to debone the breast, thats another lesson) Besides, the bones add a special flavor to the meat that is noticeable.

So now you have a cut up chicken, right?

Make a brine.

Whats a brine?
A brine is a water solution that you will let the chicken swim in for from 2 to 20 hours. What it does is allows the flavor of the brine to permeate into the meat cells and add not only moisture but flavor.
This is especially good with dry tasteless Turkeys.....thats another lesson also.

Take one quart, (4 cups of water, add 3/4 cups of salt and 1.5 cups of sugar, dissolve and mix until all is absorbed. Get youself either a couple of plastic zip lock bags or a vessel of some sort to let the chicken swim in. Place the chicken in there, submerge and let it sit in the refrigerator for the time.

At this point you can if you wish, you can add stuff to the brine.

Stuff? Like what?

What every you would like to have a hint of the flavor in the bird. ( this is optional)

Something like: Liquid smoke, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, basil leaves, epasote and oregano, tomato sauce or smashed garlic cloves, whatever, this is your time to experiment as much as you want or not at all. Don't be intimidated, this stuff is not rocket science!

Ok, next THE FIRE

IF you have a charcoal grill or gas grill you will need to do the following. Separate the cooking area into at least two or three levels of heat.

Because I said so.

Chicken pieces cook at different times, the thighs cook differently than breast parts, so if you want the whole chicken to be done more or less at the same time you have to do this!

Trust Me!

Drain and dry the chicken. Paper towels will work best, don't use a hair drier, there are too noisy. ( if you don't drain and dry the chicken will not have crispy skin, and you want crispy skin don't you. Other wise it will sort of steam cook, .....bad )

Ok, Back to the bird.

Make the fire in three areas, since the breasts have varied thickness they will take the longest to cook. All other pieces are about average.

Take an place all the pieces over the hottest part of the grill, to sear until you see some darkening of the skin, you don't really want to burn the meat since burnt meat tastes bitter, do you?

Once you have made nice grill marks and browned the pieces, (anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes) go ahead and move all the pieces over to the medium area. Keep an eye ( not really just look at it now and then) to be sure that your fire is not too hot so that you don't have a 3rd alarm blaze under the chicken.
If you do, just move it to the colder part of the grill. Or pick up the phone and summon the fire department. Then you will need more chicken because they are usually very hungry!

Take the pieces after3 or 5 minutes and turn them, let them sit there for about the same time, then move all of them over to the area where either there is no coal or the flame on the gas is at it's lowest and you do not have any flare up.

Go find yourself an aluminum pie plate, and place it on top of the two breast pieces, and finish cooking.

That can take anywhere from about 5 to 15 minutes depending on the heat level and if you have a top to the grill.

Do not coat the meat with any sauces while they are cooking, they will just burn and not taste too good.

The last 3 or 4 minutes is the time if you are going to suffocate the meat with your special secret sauce. Or some nice salt and pepper will do nicely at this point.

To test the chicken for doneness, take a small sharp steak knife and stab it into the breast. ( I 've always wanted to say that) and see if the meat is all white, there should be no hint of rojo (red) and the juice will escape should be clear, not cloudy (rain tomorrow) .

The other way restaurants do, is to grab the meat off the grill after the initial searing , grill marks and smoke etc, then they place the meat into a dish and throw it into a 350 degree(F) oven for holding. It can hold there for 10 minutes if you need.

You will have to experiment with your grill, obviously one that you have placed 20 kilos of carbon will cook faster than one with 4 twigs of ocote, so be reasonable here, it's not really rocket science.

With this recipe you will have consistent good chicken, but be sure and do not give the secret of the brining, let's keep that our secret.

Happy Cooking!
Chef Ken

Yes, Ken can cook!
I have heard it before!

Stuff you will need.

3/4 cup of sugar , just plain sugar, not raw, not confectionery, not sweet and low. Sugar!
1.5 cups table salt. I don't know what they call it table either.
One or two chickens, you will have to cut them up or ask the market guy to do it. (chicken)
One quart of water.
couple or one zip lock bag.
misc herbs and spices ( if you want)
salt and pepper--Always on almost everything.
Time, we have plenty of that here.
Charcoal or gas.....


bbadinov said...

I tried you recipe and was happy of how moist the chicken turned out even thought I think I over cooked it!

ken kushnir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ken kushnir said...

Glad you enjoyed it! It is sad that a lot of people overcook chicken thinking that you need to do that to KILL all the stuff, what you actually do is kill the flavor. Invest in a instant read thermometer, usually about 10 bucks, I think walmart has them, or learn how to tell by using your finger and guageing the resistance of the meat as it cooks. You want to pull the meat at about 160 then cover it with foil let stand for at least 8 minutes before slicing. Email me anytime for questions on any cooking.
Happy eating!

Michael Warshauer said...

The pollerías in the Pátzcuaro mercado will be happy to cut up a whole chicken for you at no extra cost. However, their cuts might not be the way you expected.

We almost never grill chicken, as the local pollos asados are so economical and delicious. On Sunday, we ate most of a whole chicken, grilled over charcoal, seasoned with salt and pepper, then finished with the juice of a whole orange. With it came a sort of light cabbage slaw, and a muy picante salsa roja. Some rice was, as usual, forgettable. That was at the pollos asados just north of the RR tracks at the Tzurumútaro junction on the eastern edge of Pátzcuaro.
One pollo, with salsa, slaw, rice plus two soft drinks, $96 MN.

We usually get it to go, which is a bit cheaper, but the chicken was fresh off the grill, sizzling hot, and was better than those we'd carried home before.


ken kushnir said...

We think alike Michael, I only cook chicken at home when we have visitors.
It is hard for most of them to accept the local food you and I delight in purchasing. Usually once a week I will grab a Pollo Rostizado from one of two places on the road between the centro and our house.
Our visitors (about half of them) seem to believe stories about street vendors selling dead and diseased birds.
Yes their sanitation standards are not quite up to what we had to abide by in the states but don't forget we need to have immunity to all kinds of stuff and that's the only place to get those valuable germs.
Usually after they are here for a couple of days I break them in gradually and take them to several places and 90% of them leave wanting and appreciating local vittles!

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