Recado rojo BBQ chicken – bright and zesty, with a robust spicy and floral aromas, this chicken recipe is particularly good for summer, served with a fruity salsa on the side.
Here’s a flavorful chicken recipe for your summer bbq repertoire. It’s another one from my favorite cookbook Hartwood, which I slightly adapted. A bouquet of warm spices, mixed with sweet citrus, creates a super aromatic and delicious recado – a Mayan spice paste, popular in the Yucatán region of Mexico, which gives your meat an incredible flavor, and appetizing reddish color. It has a distinct, floral scent, and it’s perfect for a summer dinner, served with a light, fruity salad.
A ton of spices go into the recado rojo paste, whose main ingredient, and what gives the paste its reddish color, is achiote seeds. These little pyramid-shaped red seeds have long been used in the Caribbean not only as a spice, but as a natural food coloring, or fabric dye. They are used in various roast meat preparations, and give rice dishes of the region a lovely yellow-orange hue, similarly to what saffron does to Middle Eastern rice recipes. The ancient Mayans also used ground achiote powder to enhance the color of their cocoa drinks.
As far as flavor, they have a subtle peppery, and floral aroma, but it’s definitely their color which they are mostly used for. You can find achiote seeds (also called annatto seeds) in Latin markets, or online – they are inexpensive when you get them at a local store, and you can buy them either whole, or ground.
I know it’s a long list of spices, but it makes enough paste for at least 5-6 batches, and you can store the unused paste in the freezer. The recado rojo has a very robust, bright flavor, and a little goes a long way. It has to be diluted to act as a marinade, or basting liquid. Traditionally orange juice or vinegar is used. I added orange juice and zest to the paste, as it complements the sweetness of the spices best. Unlike the original recipe, which calls for chicken legs, and finishes off the meat in the oven, I cook mine on the bbq, and use boneless thigh meat.
Serve the recado rojo chicken with a fruity salsa or salad, like this one, or a side of cooked rice. And here’s a tip – add a spoonful of the paste into the rice, while it’s cooking for a boost of color and flavor.
Have a spicy, colorful rest of your summer!!
Recado rojo BBQ chicken - bright and zesty, with a robust spicy and floral aromas, this chicken recipe is particularly good for summer, served with a fruity salsa on the side.
- 3 Tbs achiote seeds *
- 3 Tbs coriander seeds
- 3 Tbs cumin seeds
- 3 Tbs whole cloves
- 3 Tbs allspice berries
- 3 Tbs black peppercorns
- 3 Tbs fennel seeds
- 3 Tbs ground cinnamon
- 3 Tbs dried oregano
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbs sea salt
- 2 oranges, juiced
- 3 lbs boneless chicken thighs
- juice and zest of 1 orange (or 3 limes)
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 3 tsp salt
Soak the achiote seeds in half of the orange juice, until softened (about 15 minutes).
Toast the coriander, cumin, allspice, cloves, black peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet for about 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
Process the toasted spices in a spice grinder in batches.
Add the oregano to the spice grinder and pulse until fine. Add to the ground spice mix.
Smash the garlic with a bit of salt in a mortar and pestle.
In a food processor, or blender add the ground spices, the achiote seeds, and orange juice, the garlic paste, and ground cinnamon. Process until fine. Add the rest of the orange juice until you get a smooth paste.
Divide the paste into 3-Tbs portions. Leave one portion, and freeze the rest.
Liberally salt your chicken thighs.
Mix 1 achiote paste portion with the juice and zest of 1 orange. Pour over the chicken, and let marinate for a few hours.
Preheat the BBQ to medium-high. Brush with oil, and place the marinated chicken thighs on the hot grill. Reduce heat to medium-low, and grill for about 15-20 minutes until done.
Remove from grill and let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into portions and serve with a fruity salad, and/or rice.
* Buy achiote (annatto) seeds at local Latin stores, or online.