Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Negra Modelo Chicken & Fiesta Ensalada

I just returned from spending a fantastic week in Arlington with my better half. We did a little cooking, a good bit of eating out, and not a whole lot that was more stressful than that.

Summer always makes me crave lime-drenched Mexican food, and since Ross has a grill - and an entire backyard (which, to my Chicago-weary eyes might as well have been the Garden of Eden) - I wanted to make juicy grilled chicken.

He also lives within walking distance of a great, inexpensive Mexican grocery store, which made picking up the ingredients ridiculously affordable - 10 limes for $1, for instance (in Chicago, they are 2 for $1). They had some interesting meats - chicken feet, beef tongue, various offal - but I stuck with a good, reliable cut of chicken. I really like to grill meat on the bone because I think it stays more moist and has more flavor, but of course you could use boneless, skinless chicken breast or whatever you want. This marinade would be good for any meat - steak, pork, even a good sturdy fish like swordfish or salmon.

I know that the long list of ingredients makes it look complicated, and I admit I got a little excited at the bodega, but almost every component of the meal uses the same basic ingredients. The salad could probably have been made a bit simpler, but what can I say - it was summer, I was blissfully enjoying my time in DC, I had a Negro Modelo in hand - I'm not to be blamed for the cornucopia of veggies. In short, if you want to try this at home, feel free to use less ingredients, but whatever you do, don't even turn on the grill without a delicious, cold beer in your hand.




1 bottle Negra Modelo or other dark Mexican beer
juice of 2 limes
2 T. cumin
2 T. ground oregano (if you can't find ground, use regular dried)
a couple shakes hot ground chili (I used ground chile de arbol; use cayenne or whatever you have. Or just sub in hot sauce.)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

For the chicken:

4 chicken legs, bone-in, skin removed (you could use any cut you want, boneless or bone-in)
3 T. butter, melted
several good hearty shakes of your favorite hot sauce (I used Louisiana hot sauce)
juice of one lime
shake of cumin
shake of oregano

Sauce for the chicken:

1/2 c. sour cream
a few shakes of hot sauce
juice of 1/2 a lime
fresh chopped cilantro
pinch of cumin
regular red salsa, whatever kind you have

For the Fiesta Ensalada:

2 T. olive oil
2 avocados, chunked
1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
3 ears of corn, boiled, kernels cut off (or use 1 cup thawed frozen kernels)
1 can black beans, drained and well-rinsed
1 smallish zucchini, quartered then cut into chunks
1 sweet yellow onion, cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
crumbled queso fresco (or you could use feta or ricotta salata)
juice of 2 limes
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
pinch of hot chile powder
pinch of cumin
pinch of oregano
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped roughly


Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade. Place the raw chicken in the marinade in a large zip-top bag or an airtight plastic container. Marinate for 30 minutes, or however long you want. When you're ready to grill the chicken, discard the marinade.


Get the grill ready. While it's heating, mix together the rest of the ingredients under "for the chicken" in a small bowl. While the chicken is grilling, brush or spoon it over the chicken on both sides. Turn the chicken when it has dark, crusty grill marks on the underside, and cook until cooked through.


In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the onion, seasoning with salt and pepper, until it is getting dark around the edges and soft all over. Add the zucchini and cook until it begins to color and is tender. Assemble all the vegetable ingredients (including the cooked onion and zucchini) and the cheese in a large bowl for the salad. In a small bowl, mix the lime juice, olive oil, and the rest of the seasonings. Whisk together, then pour over the vegetables and toss gently to combine, careful to not break up the avocado chunks.


Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce for the chicken EXCEPT for the salsa. Spread a couple big spoonfuls of the Ensalada on each of four plates. Place a chicken leg on top of each one, and top with the sour cream sauce and a little of the salsa. Garnish with lime wedges or cilantro sprigs if desired. Serve with margaritas or Mexican beers. Enjoy!

The chicken came out moist and delicious - I was worried it might be too spicy, but it was perfect. The salad was also delicious, although Cameron (Ross' ex-roommate and dinner guest) pointed out that a little more lime juice might've done it good. (I agree.) Ross described it as a "fiesta of flavors parading through his mouth," and a "pinata of deliciousness radiating bandoliers of Mexicanness." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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