Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again. I present to you my husband, David, who is a griller extraordinaire, carnivore and lover of all things food.
As you probably all know, I have spent a lot of time traveling throughout Mexico, Latin and South America and the Caribbean. Wherever you go in these climes, you are bound to run into a street cart or a rustic restaurant where they are grilling half a chicken. The smell is always intoxicating and seeing those pieces of pollo on the grill just makes me crazy.
Generally, they marinate the chicken in spices, oil and exotic fruit juices and it sure doesn’t taste like KFC. That’s a good thing. Based on where you are, you are going to get a different tasting chicken which is the beauty of grilling chicken because it takes on the flavors of the indigenous spices and marinades.
Attempting to duplicate this at home is pretty easy and I do it all the time. I must admit I never “quite” get the 100% authentic flavors I remember, but I came darn close.
So go to your butcher and ask him or her to cut some chickens in half for you, preferably with the backbone removed, or if you are skillful with the poultry shears, you can buy whole chickens and cut them up yourself.
Try and buy an organic or pastured chicken or a combination of both because cheap, mass-produced chickens can be pretty nasty. Now you need to figure out what style of grilled chicken you like.
Here’s a few options:
- Mexican–marinated in oil (canola or olive oil), lime juice and spices such as adobo or Mexican oregano
- Italian–marinated in rosemary, garlic, olive oil and lemon
- Caribbean–you could use a jerk seasoning or a combination of sour orange marinade, allspice, pepper sauce and scotch bonnet
- American-style BBQ–rub it with a dry rub to start and then, at the end of the grilling process, just slather on some good barbeque sauce to finish
Today I chose to make my grilled half a chicken Cuban style with mojo, since I still had some of that spectacular sauce leftover from our Cuban Grand Slam series. I had not yet tried it on chicken and it was a home run.
For this Cuban style recipe, I like to serve it with black beans and rice and a fried ripe plantain. Obviously, if you choose another flavor, use appropriate side dishes.
And don’t forget an ice cold cerveza (beer)…and one or two while grilling as well.
So cut those chickens in half and fire up the grills and get something really fabulous cooking.
Grilled Cuban Half a Chicken with Mojo
For the chicken
- 1 chicken cut in half
- 1 1/2 cups bitter orange marinade
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
- Cuban Mojo sauce recipe follows
For the mojo
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup bitter orange marinade or instead you can use a combination of 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup reduced sodium vegetable broth or a homemade vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped
To make the mojo:
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until fragrant and pale golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic burn.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bitter orange marinade (or lime and orange juice combo), vegetable broth or stock, cumin, oregano and pepper.
Return the pan to the stove and bring the sauce to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 3 minutes or until the flavor has mellowed. Season with salt. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Stir in the cilantro and heat again right before serving. Store in a glass jar or bottle in the refrigerator for up more than a month. Shake well and reheat leftover sauce before using.
To make the chicken:
In a baking dish, combine the bitter orange marinade, olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika and stir thoroughly. Place the chicken halves in the marinade and cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit preferably overnight. Turn the chicken once in a while to evenly coat the chicken with the marinade.
Light a charcoal or wood fire or fire up a gas grill. Place chicken directly over the coals or flame for 5 minutes or until a slight char is obtained on the skin. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes on the other side.
Move chicken to indirect heat and close the lid. Cook for 40-50 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 180-190 degrees. During the cooking process, baste the chicken every 10 minutes with the prepared mojo sauce.
Towards the end of the cooking process, move the chicken over the direct heat for additional crisping. When cooking temperature has been achieved, remove the chickens from the grill and let rest for a few minutes. You may either serve it whole or cut the half into pieces.
Pour mojo sauce liberally over the chicken and serve.