POLLO ADOBADO (Mexican roasted chicken with red chile adobo, for four)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 medium (about 3 ounces total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into flat pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably fresh ground
¼ teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
a 3-1/2 pound chicken
1 medium white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
sprigs of watercress for garnish
1. Make the adobo (In Spanish this means sauce or marinade). Measure oil into a medium skillet and set over medium heat. When hot, oil-toast the chiles 1 or 2 pieces at a time until very toasty smelling and blistered, only a few seconds per side. Transfer the chiles to a bowl. Measure in 2 cups hot tap water; a small plate on the top will keep the chiles submerged. Let rehydrate for about 20 minutes.
2. Place the garlic, oregano, pepper, cumin, cloves, sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and vinegar in a blender or food processor. Pour in the rehydrated chiles, liquid and all. Process the mixture to a smooth puree. Press through a medium-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Taste the adobo: It should have a little bite from the chiles, tang from the vinegar, spice from the herbs and it should be a little salty. The consistency should be like a steak sauce – thinnish and runny, but with nice body. If it’s too thick, the sauce will look gloppy on the bird (rather than covering it evenly) and it will brown irregularly.
3. Prepare the chicken for roasting. Remove the giblets from the cavity and either discard them or reserve them for another use. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat it dry with paper towels. Remove any excess fat from the bird and tuck the flap of skin at the neck end under. Fold wings akimbo, cross the ends of the drumsticks and tie them together, looping around the “bishop’s nose“, using kitchen twine. Smear half of the adobo all over the chicken and refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour or as long as overnight.
4. Put a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 450*. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and baste with the adobo. Put the chicken into the oven and, after thirty minutes of roasting, turn the temperature down to 400* and continue roasting for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken with the adobo, and return to the oven for another 20 minutes. Refrigerate (good for 1 week) or freeze (good for 2 to 3 months) the remaining adobo for another use – brush on grilled fish, pork, lamb chops, etc. Remove chicken from oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before carving.
5. While the chicken is roasting, mix together the sliced onion and the remaining tablespoon vinegar in a small bowl. Carve the chicken, transfer it to a platter, sprinkle with onions and garnish with watercress.
SERVE WITH: Arroz verde (Mexican green rice)