Grilled Ancho Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
When I was thinking about a chicken dish for the grill, I thought it might be fun to put our spin on the beer can chicken recipe. I've used an ancho chile paste to season both the chicken and the beer. While there's some preparation involved in making the paste, it stores well in either the refrigerator or freezer so it can be made ahead.
Over the years, I've used many different vertical roasters and I finally found one that I think works the best. It's made by Mr. Bar-B-Q and is available in either a non-stick or stainless finish. It's called the Grill Wok Chicken Roaster and I like it because it's very stable, it has a large cylinder for holding the beer chile mixture, and it has built-in handles on two sides. The handles allow you not only to remove the chicken when it's done safely and easily, but it also lets you rotate the chicken as it's grilling for more even cooking. Check out the gadget section of October, 2010 newsletter for information on where to buy this roaster.
Ancho Chile Paste
8 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium (about 4 ounces total) dried ancho chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, whole or freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole or freshly ground
A scant 1/4 teaspoon cloves, whole or freshly ground
2 cups chicken broth
1 - 12 ounce bottle of beer (I used Bohemia)
1 - 5 to 6 pound whole chicken roaster, rinsed and patted dry
Lay the unpeeled garlic in a dry non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Roast until the garlic has softened and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool, then discard the papery skin and place into a blender jar.
While the garlic is roasting, break off the stems of the chiles, tear the chiles open and discard the seeds. Toast the chiles a few at a time in your medium-hot skillet . Open them out flat, lay them on the hot surface skin-side up, press flat for a few seconds with a metal spatula (if the temperature is right you’ll hear a faint crackle), then flip them. (If you pressed them just long enough, they’ll have changed to a mottled tan underneath. If you see a slight wisp of smoke, it’s okay, but any more than that will mean burnt chiles and bitter taste.) Toast the other side. Transfer the toasted chiles to a bowl, cover with hot water and let rehydrate for 30 minutes. Use a plate to weight down the chiles to ensure even soaking. Drain and add the soaked chiles to the blender. Add the oregano, black pepper, cumin, cloves, and chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Press the puree through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard the skins and seeds that remain behind in the strainer. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt. Divide the puree in half. You'll use half for this recipe. Place the other half in an airtight container and refrigerate for several weeks or you can freeze it for later use.
Preheat one side of the grill to medium. You'll want to maintain a temperature of 325 degrees during the cooking time so adjust your grill accordingly.
Pour the beer into a 2 cup measuring cup and mix in 1/4 cup of the ancho paste. Pour a portion of the beer mixture into the cylinder, filling it almost to the top. Using a silicone brush, brush the inside cavity of the chicken with a thin layer of chile paste. Place the chicken onto the cylinder with the legs resting on the bottom of the platform. Fold the wing tips behind the back of the chicken. Paint a thin layer of the chile paste over the entire surface of the chicken. Don't make this too thick or it'll burn while the chicken is roasting. Liberally sprinkle salt over the entire surface of the chicken. Place the chicken in the center of the side of the grill without the heat. Start the grilling process with the back of the chicken facing the hot side of the grill. Pour the remaining beer mixture through the top of the chicken to refill the cylinder several times during the grilling process. Once the white meat of the chicken reaches 140 degrees, brush on the remaining chile paste over the entire surface of the chicken. Continue grilling for another 5 minutes or until the white meat registers 145 degrees. There will be carry over cooking after the chicken is removed from the grill. Total cooking time is between 1 1/4 and 1 1/2 hours. Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. You can use the beer chile mixture from the cylinder as an au jus for the chicken if you'd like. Cut up the chicken and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle a finishing salt over the top of the pieces as a final seasoning for the chicken.