Cook this: Pollo al pastor from Mi Cocina

‘It’s one of those dishes that makes everybody smile because it smells so good,’ says Rick Martínez

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Our cookbook of the week is Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with the author.

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To try another recipe from the book, check out: Aguachile (fresh, butterflied shrimp with avocado, cucumber, lime and a spicy serrano salsa) and poc chuc (orange- and lime-marinated grilled pork).

This rotisserie-style roast chicken just might be Rick Martínez’s favourite recipe in Mi Cocina. “I say that hesitantly because, of course, it’s like your child. But I just love making it,” he says, laughing. “It’s so good. And it’s one of those things that I never expected would have been in the book.”

Martínez has written a lot of Mexican recipes over the years, and didn’t want to cover the same ground in Mi Cocina. Al pastor (“in the style of the shepherd”) is an iconic Mexican meat filling. Since he’d developed pastor-style recipes before (such as these pork and shrimp versions), he didn’t intend on including another one in the book.

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Strolling around Guanajuato in central Mexico, though, he happened upon a rosticería specializing in pollo al pastor. Al pastor is often made with pork roasted on a vertical spit called a trompo, which Lebanese immigrants brought to Mexico in the 19th century. Martínez was immediately struck by the idea of combining poultry with an al pastor marinade.

“I’d never seen that before, and the smell was incredible. I ended up having to buy a rotisserie chicken to taste it,” he recalls.

Martínez hadn’t realized how popular rotisserie chicken was in Mexico until he arrived in Guanajuato. The rosticerías reminded him of Paris’ poulet roti (roasted chicken) spots where rotisserie birds are on display, spinning and crackling, potatoes catching the drippings. In Mexico, vendors usually roast chickens in wood-fire ovens, he says, with potatoes, onions and chilies soaking up the fat.

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Here, Martínez oven roasts an achiote-brushed chicken surrounded by pineapple and onions, which he serves with tortillas, salsas (he suggests salsa de aguacate and salsa de chile de árbol) and cilantro leaves. “It took me a long time to figure out how to make (pollo al pastor) for a home cook,” he says. “And also, to make it look good and to make it easy.”

Making poultry al pastor-style has since become a tradition for Martínez. At his home in Mazatlán, pavo (turkey) al pastor is a must for Thanksgiving.

“It’s just fun to make tacos out of it. It’s one of those dishes that (makes) everybody smile because it smells so good. It’s something new, it’s a little bit of a spin on a thing that you might already be used to. It’s just good.”

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Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez
Mazatlán author Rick Martínez travelled more than 32,000 kilometres and visited all of Mexico’s 32 states researching his debut book, Mi Cocina. Photo by Clarkson Potter


Spicy-sweet chipotle-roast chicken with onion and pineapple

2 tbsp achiote paste
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 2 tbsp adobo sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt (0.7 oz/20 g), divided
1 tbsp agave syrup or honey
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 whole chicken (4 lb/1.8 kg)
1 medium pineapple (2.2 lb/988 g), peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
1 large white onion (14.6 oz/416 g), halved and thinly sliced

For serving:
Warm tortillas de maíz (corn flatbread made from ground corn)
Salsas (Martínez suggests salsa de aguacate and salsa de chile de árbol)
Cilantro leaves

Step 1

In a medium bowl and using a fork, break up the achiote paste so no large clumps remain. Add the garlic, chilies, adobo sauce, vinegar and 2 teaspoons of the salt and stir, using the fork to smash into a smooth paste. Vigorously whisk the agave syrup and 1/4 cup of the olive oil into the achiote mixture until completely smooth.

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Step 2

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place breast-side up in the centre of a 13 × 9-inch baking pan. Liberally brush the chicken with the achiote sauce, getting into every nook and cranny, as well as inside the cavity. The chicken should be completely coated and there shouldn’t be any sauce remaining. Tie the ends of the drumsticks together with kitchen twine; tuck the wings underneath the back.

Step 3

In a medium bowl, toss the pineapple, onion and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange around the chicken. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour; if you have more time, cover the pan (skip letting it sit at room temperature) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 12. Uncover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting.

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Step 4

Arrange a rack in the centre of the oven; preheat to 350°F (177°C). Roast the chicken, tossing the onion and pineapple with the juices in the pan halfway through, until the pineapple is lightly browned, the chicken is deep burgundy and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breasts registers 155°F (68°C; the temperature will climb to 165°F/74°C as the chicken rests), for 60 to 70 minutes.

Step 5

Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest uncovered in the pan for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carve. Serve with roasted pineapple and onions, tortillas, salsas and cilantro.

Serves: 6 to 8

Recipe and image reprinted with permission from Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in Mexico by Rick Martínez copyright © 2022. Photographs copyright © 2022 by Ren Fuller. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.


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