Notes: Socorro Herrera and her daughter Dora Herrera, owners of Yuca's in Los Angeles, sometimes serve this traditional Yucatecan dish at the Los Feliz district's yearly street fair in June. Herrera poaches the chicken to make a flavorful broth that she pours over the onions en escabeche (pickled), then roasts the bird. We take a simpler tack, serving the roast chicken--colored deep red by the ground annato seeds in the achiote paste--on a bed of the sautéed onions. To eat, scoop the onions into the warm tortillas, then tear chicken into shreds and lay meat on the onions. Top with Mexican crema. Have your butcher cut the chicken in half. If you can't find achiote paste, add as a substitute 3 more cloves garlic, 1 more tablespoon salad oil, 2 more tablespoons vinegar, 3 tablespoons paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican or regular oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin in step 1; whirl until smooth.
4 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons salad oil
3/4 cup cider vinegar
4 ounces (1/2 cup) salted red achiote paste
1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 lb.), cut in half lengthwise through breast and back (see notes)
1 3/4 pounds red onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and pepper
How to Make It
In a blender or a food processor, whirl 2 cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons salad oil, 6 tablespoons vinegar, and achiote paste until smoothly puréed.
Rinse chicken, pat dry, and pull off and discard any lumps of fat. Rub both halves on all sides with half the achiote mixture. Set chicken pieces, skin up and side by side, in a 9- by 13-inch pan.
Bake in a 375° oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and quickly spread skin sides equally with remaining achiote mixture. Continue baking, occasionally basting with pan juices, until skin is richly browned (under paste), 30 to 45 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice onions; mince remaining 2 cloves garlic. In a 12-inch frying pan or a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat, combine onions, garlic, and remaining 1 tablespoon salad oil; stir often until vegetables are limp, 8 to 10 minutes. Add remaining 6 tablespoons vinegar and stir occasionally until liquid is evaporated and onions are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add oregano, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread onion mixture on a platter and keep warm.
Set chicken halves on onion mixture. Tear or cut meat from bones.
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