Friday, September 14, 2007

Pollo Asada: Dad, Lobster, and Hard-Earned Deliciousness

My dad is a big seafood fan in general, but nothing – not Ken Burns documentaries, not Derek Jeter, possibly not even his children – hold the same place in his heart as a good chunk of lobster. And while he digs its buttery taste and luxurious texture, it’s the effort that makes the scarlet crustacean all the more satisfying.

See, Dad’s theory is that lobster is so drool-inducing because you have to work for it. Encased in near-impenetrable exoskeletal armor, each delectable morsel becomes more enticing as you cleave, rend, and yank it from its fishy hideout.

While not a lobster, Daisy Martinez’s Pollo Asada holds the same promise, as well as a similar workload. To prepare the dish, you must first beat the hell out of the adobo ingredients, until they morph into an alluring verdant paste. Then you have to carefully, thoroughly loosen the skin before you finally, painstakingly apply the adobo to the awaiting meat underneath. With a teaspoon, no less.

Despite all the elbow grease, the prep doesn’t take as long as one might think. And the end product … oh, the end product. Golden, fragrant, and moister than a field of tongues, The Boyfriend and I liked it even better than the Marcella recipe posted a few weeks ago. (And lord, that’s saying something.) Not to mention, the leftovers are outrageous. Lobster-like, one might say.

Like any roast chicken, the fat and calories are hard to compute, and depend largely on what part of the bird you’re eating from. To cut the badness, pick from the breast and/or remove the skin.

Pollo Asada
7 generous servings
From Daisy Martinez (warning: pdf file).

One 5 pound chicken [washed and patted dry inside and out] (Mine was 6 lbs – Kris)
12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1⁄2 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1) With a mortar and pestle or, crush the garlic and salt into a paste. Drop in the peppercorns and oregano. Pound until they're part of the paste. Add oil and vinegar. Stir well to combine.

2) Preheat oven to 500°F. Prep a roasting pan with a rack placed inside.

3) Very gently and lightly, use your fingers to loosen the skin on top of the chicken breast. Attempt the same with the legs, thighs, and back, trying not to rip the skin. With a teaspoon, rub the paste/adobo in between the skin and the meat, all over the chicken. Get the cavity, too, if you can.

4) Truss the chicken. Gently place on the roasting pan rack and cook for 30 minutes. Drop the oven to 400°F and keep roasting until "the juices from the thickest part of the thigh near the bone run clear." [Daisy says this should take 45 minutes or so]. If you're not sure about the juices, use an instant read thermometer to take the temperature "where the thigh meets the backbone." It should read 165°F. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes, for juices to redistribute. Serve.

Approximate Price per Serving

One 5 pound chicken: $5.13 (mine was 6 lbs)
12 cloves garlic: $0.60
1 1⁄2 tablespoons fine sea or kosher salt: $0.03
1 tablespoon black peppercorns: $0.30
2 tablespoons dried oregano: $0.18
2 tablespoons olive oil: $0.16
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar: $0.16
TOTAL: $6.56

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