One of the first things author Rick Bayless learned to cook in Mexico was chicken marinated in red chiles. They call the marinade adobo, a Spanish word that signifies, plain and simply, "flavoring." A mixture of rehydrated dried red chiles, garlic, spices, and vinegar, it is an essential condiment in the Mexican kitchen. Once the seasoning mixture has done its work, resulting in a light, flavorful, and satisfying dish, the chicken is said to be adobado, or marinated (loosely translated). Store leftover marinade in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for a month. Then use on fish, pork, or lamb chops before grilling.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 dried ancho chiles, seeded and torn (about 3 ounces)
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 garlic cloves
1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken
1/3 cup water
10 small red potatoes, halved (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (1/4-inch-thick) sliced onion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
4 watercress sprigs (optional)
How to Make It
To prepare the adobo, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add anchos; sauté 2 minutes or until anchos are blistered. Combine anchos and 2 cups water in a small bowl. Cover and let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Combine ancho mixture, 1/4 cup vinegar, and next 7 ingredients (1/4 cup vinegar through garlic) in a blender; process until smooth. Strain marinade through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids. (Adobo will have the consistency of steak sauce.)
To prepare remaining ingredients, remove and discard giblets, neck, and skin from chicken. Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting surface. Cut in half lengthwise along the backbone. Combine 1 cup marinade and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 4 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade. Place chicken on a broiler pan or rack of roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer into meaty part of thigh, making sure not to touch the bone. Pour 1/3 cup water into pan. Combine potatoes, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Arrange potatoes around chicken. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until thermometer registers 160°. Brush the reserved marinade over chicken and potatoes, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Place chicken and potatoes on a platter. Combine onion and 1 tablespoon vinegar in a bowl; arrange around chicken and potatoes. Garnish with watercress sprigs, if desired.