Monday, June 10, 2013

Pollo al Ajillo (Panamanian Garlic Chicken)

Lately, it seems that every time I plan to grill, it's raining. I had originally intended to grill this chicken over a charcoal fire, but had to settle for using my gas grill. I can't stress enough how much better chicken (or other proteins) are when grilled over indirect heat. To do this, simply heat all burners on high for about 5 minutes, then turn off the front burners, which is where you'll place the protein, close the lid, and achieve perfect results every time. This recipe was adapted from Saveur magazine.

Serves 5 (or 2 with leftovers)
5 pieces quartered chicken (leg and thigh)
3 bay leaves
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 tsp Kosher salt (plus more, to taste)
2 tbs water
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp ground allspice

 Puree garlic, salt, and 2 tbs water in a food processor to a smooth paste. Add juice, vinegar, black pepper, Worcestershire, and allspice and puree until smooth. Place chicken and bay leaves in a large freezer bag set in a bowl. Carefully pour in mixture, being sure to rub over all the chicken quarters. Seal well and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight (I highly recommend overnight and turning the bag several times over that time period). Reserve some of the marinade to brush over the chicken while grilling.

Preheat the grill as described above. Add the chicken to the front burner (which you turn off after preheating) and close the cover. Cook for 16 minutes. Brush with reserved marinade, then turn over and cook for about 19 minutes more. The thickest part of the thigh should come to 165 degrees.
This chicken, heavily spiced and intensely garlicky, is sold at roadside restaurants all over Panama and I can see why. I seldom eat chicken skin--not because I dislike it, but because of the calories and fat. I would have gladly eaten much, much more than was on my piece of chicken. The meat was incredibly moist and flavorful. This is a marinade that really permeates the meat with flavor. The skin--well, just look at the photo. I can't wait until corn is in season to make this again. Yes, there's a bit of prep involved, but it is so worth it. Make lots more than you need and revel in the leftovers.