One of the things I enjoyed most about growing up in my Big (Crazy) Dominican Familia is that life was never boring. I could write a separate blog devoted to all the reasons why. Let’s just say that life with almost 30 (yes 30) aunts and uncles and over 100 (yes 100) first cousins is quite…vivacious. Our vibrancy is evident in just about every aspect of our lives, particularly in our food!
For the past few years, trying to develop a recipe for the roast chicken I enjoyed in my grandparents’ backyard during my childhood summer vacations in the Dominican Republic. The chickens were the freshest of fresh – raised by my grandpa, free to roam around the yard and the house and “laid to rest” by my grandma who then roasted them over an outdoor coal burning stove. We even had our own Dominican barbecue sauce. The result was finger lickin’, bone suckin’ delicious.
I always knew I would never make that same chicken out of my urban Brooklyn kitchen. But my belly craved something close to its robust, juicy goodness. Most roast chicken purists may turn a blind eye to this recipe. But seasoning chicken with just salt, pepper and a little olive oil is not how my family gets down.
So I want to say thank you to Latina Chef Daisy Martinez for this recipe which, I think, captures the essence of my familia – never boring, vibrant and chocked full of flavor. The recipe gets extra authenticity brownie points for being made with a mortar and pestle, my family’s “food processor” of choice.
It’s slightly adapted, with the addition of smoked Spanish paprika for extra color and warmth. I also swapped the vinegar for bitter orange juice. If you can’t find whole bitter oranges, you can substitute with a product Goya makes called Bitter Orange Marinade. Bitter oranges don’t taste very good on their own but are great for adding extra tang to meats, stews and soups and widely used in the Dominican Republic.
Not only is this chicken’s flavor spot on but (if you follow the cooking instructions) it is the JUICIEST chicken you will ever sink your teeth into. Do yourself a favor and make two at a time. It’s in heavy rotation in my home right now and, even in the middle of the summer, totally worth cranking up the oven.
Pollo Asado (Latin Roast Chicken)
One 4-pound chicken, washed and patted dry inside and out
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon fine sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons bitter orange juice (or Goya Bitter Orange Marinade)
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt into a paste. Add the peppercorns, oregano and paprika continuing to pound after each addition to incorporate them evenly into the paste. Then stir in the olive oil and sour orange juice to combine.
Gently work your fingers between the meat and the skin that covers the breast, legs and thighs of the chicken, being careful not the break the skin and just loosen it. Then continue to use your fingers to rub the garlic paste under the skin all over the chicken as well outside and inside (cavity) of the chicken.
Using kitchen twine, truss the chicken with kitchen twine and set on the rack of a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Then lower the heat to 400 degrees, and continue to roast for an additional 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted where the thigh meets the backbone. (Depending on your oven, if your chicken browns too quickly, loosely tent it on top to keep it from burning.)
Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.