I recently acquired a copy of Rosa’s New Mexican Table (review) and having heard of the restaurant and the book’s James Beard Award nomination in 2008 I was eager to try out some of the dishes from Chef Roberto Santibañez. One of the first dishes that caught my eye was the adobo marinated chicken with spicy guajillo chiles and chiles de arbol. An adobo sauce is bright red from the chiles and the meat is either simmered in the sauce or marinated and grilled. Common chiles for adobo include ancho, guajillo, and chipotle, though in this recipe chiles de arbol are added for extra heat. In the DC area you can find dried chiles at Hispanic grocery stores, some of the larger international grocery stores such as Grand Mart, Shoppers Food Warehouse, and some other grocery chains.
The chiles de arbol pack a punch, and since this dish was served to my boys, I went easy on the heat and removed the seeds before mixing the marinade. We thought the chicken had a lot of flavor, but Michael missed the heat so next time I’ll prepare two batches of the marinade, one with the seeds just for him.
The bright color of the marinade transfers to the chicken, lending a spectacular redness to the chicken. The meat has a lot of flavor and works well in tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, or on top of salads. This makes a great weeknight dish because you can get the chicken marinating the night before then grill it quickly for dinner the next day, and it has enough panache for a weekend party. Squirt a little lime over the grilled chicken and it’s ready to go.
Grilled Adobo Chicken (Pollo Adobado)
- cast-iron skillet
- meat mallet
- plastic zipper bag (or shallow pan covered with plastic)
- grill or grill pan
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 2 guajillo chiles (wiped clean, stemmed, seeded)
- 2 chiles de arbol (wiped clean (leave seeds intact), or less to taste)
- 3 large garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano (crumbled)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- lime wedges
- soft tortillas (for tacos or fajitas)
- refried beans
- shredded white queso
- tomatillo salsa (salsa verde)
- red salsa
- In the dry skillet, toast the chiles on each side. Lightly toast the guajillo chiles and toast well the chiles de arbol (with the seeds).
- Put all the chiles, garlic, cumin seeds, cloves, oregano, water, and cider vinegar into the blender. Blend at low speed until smooth.
- With the meat mallet, pound each chicken breast until about ¾-inch (2 cm) thick. Rub the breasts with salt and put into the bag. Pour the adobo marinade over the chicken, seal, and turn the bag a few times to make sure the chicken is evenly coated. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Heat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a hot charcoal fire.
- Grill the chicken for about 10-12 minutes, until it is cooked through and charred in places. Remove to a platter, cover with foil, and allow to stand about 5 minutes before serving.