Canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are tangy, spicy and smoky, a useful product to have on your pantry shelf. A whole can is usually too much for a single dish, so pack the leftovers into a small container and freeze – it doesn’t hurt the quality or texture. The flavour of the chipotles goes well with meats, seafood and vegetables.
Chipotle spice-rubbed baby chickens
Buy the chickens the day before you want to use them, salt them overnight and, in the morning, slather them with the spice paste.
Baby chickens are a little awkward when it comes to portion size. For most diners, a whole baby bird is too much, but half isn’t quite enough. Serving three-quarters of a bird isn’t very elegant, though, so I just count one baby chicken per person. If you prefer, use two regular-size fresh chickens (about 1.2kg each) instead. They’ll need to cook for about 20 minutes longer than baby chickens.
4 baby chickens, about 500 grams each
80 grams chipotles in adobo sauce
2-3 garlic cloves, about 15 grams
90 grams white onion
10 grams granulated sugar
25ml extra-virgin olive oil
10ml fresh lime juice
Fine sea salt
Put the chickens back-side up on the cutting board. Remove any excess fat from the cavity of the birds. Use kitchen shears to snip off the head and neck (if they’re still attached). Starting at the tail, use the shears to cut along one side of the backbone through the ribs, until you reach the neck area. Turn the bird around and cut along the other side of the back until you reach the tail, to detach the backbone completely. Open the bird to show the interior. Pull out the rib bones (they come out easily), and also detach and remove the wishbones and pubic bones (they’re harder to take out).
Turn the chicken over and lay it flat on the cutting board. Use the heel of your hand to press firmly on the centre of the bird to crack the breast bone. Sprinkle salt over the skin side of the chicken, then turn it over and salt the other side, seasoning more heavily in the fleshier areas. Put the chickens into a plastic ziplock bag and refrigerate overnight.
Make the spice paste. Weigh out 80 grams of the chipotles with some of the adobo sauce and put it in a blender. Roughly chop the garlic and onion and put them in the blender, along with the sugar, olive oil, lime juice and five grams of salt. Process to a rough paste. Slather the paste over the chickens (I use a disposable kitchen glove, so it doesn’t stain my hands). Put the birds back into the bag and refrigerate until about an hour before you want to serve dinner (90 minutes, if you’re using regular-size chickens).
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Take the chickens out of the bag and lay them skin-side up on an oven rack, with a foil-lined baking tray underneath. Take the wing tips and tuck them under the bird, to secure the wings. Scoop any spice paste that has dripped off the birds into the bag, and rub it over the skin. Put the chickens in the oven and bake for 30 minutes (45-50 minutes for regular-size birds). When the chickens are cooked, take them out of the oven. Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Put the chickens back in the oven and cook until the skin is lightly browned. Serve the baby chickens whole; for regular-size birds, cut them into quarters, using kitchen shears to slice off the legs/thighs, then cutting the length of the breast bone to separate the breasts. Serve hot or warm.
Chipotle pulled pork
This is delicious wrapped in warm corn tortillas, with some sliced pickled onions for crunch, or piled onto soft buns with vinegary coleslaw, for pulled pork sliders.
600 grams skin-off, slightly fatty pork belly
10ml cooking oil
100 grams white onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, about 15 grams, finely chopped
115 grams chipotles in adobo, roughly chopped
150 grams fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped
60ml fresh orange juice
10ml fresh lime juice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut the pork belly into 4cm chunks. Heat the oil in a pan placed over a medium flame and when it’s hot, lightly brown the chunks of pork on all sides. Do this in batches; do not crowd the pan.
After browning all the meat, pour off most of the fat from the pan. Set the pan over a low flame and add the onion, garlic and a sprinkling of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, then add the chipotles and tomatoes. Cook for a minute over a medium-high flame, stirring often, then add the orange and lime juices and season lightly with salt.
Put the meat back into the pan, bring to the boil, lower the flame, cover the pan with the lid and simmer, stirring often, for about two hours, or until the pork is very tender. If there’s too much liquid, cook, uncovered, until the sauce lightly coats the meat. Use two forks to shred the meat, then taste; add some black pepper and more salt, if needed. Serve hot with corn tortillas or soft buns.
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