Tacos with Pollo al Carbon

June 16, 2008 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

This summer I’ve decided to go off theme a little bit with my grilling style. Of course I’ll still be doing retro favorites like steaks, hamburgers, and barbeque (which is not grilling), but I’ll also be posting more Asian and Latin American specialties that I’ve gleaned from the web, as well as posting some of my own recipes.

On the Grill Today: Tacos with Pollo al Carbon, charro beans, curtido (pickled cabbage salad), and salsa muy asada roja.

For Father’s Day I whipped up a little Norteño/Salvadoran menu that goes great with the grill. No, I haven’t forsaken my beloved Tex-Mex! I still consider it the premiere cuisine of Texas on par with any the regional (interior) cuisines of Mexico and the Southwest. Tex-Mex had the unfortunate timing of going mainstream about the time the huge taco chains began to dominate the fast food industry, thus the bastardized corporate version became what most non-Texans regard as “Tex-Mex”. No so, but that’s another post!

Tacos with Pollo al Carbon

I consider this “interior” version of Pollo al Carbon to be Norteño (northern Mexican) since it’s grilled over coals in the traditional fashion. The vaqueros of the northern desert, however, would have undoubtedly have eaten the beef version of this! Don’t worry, chicken is an acceptable choice for we petroleum-deprived suburbanites.

Tacos Pollo al Carbon


  • 2 small chickens, cut in half down the middle
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Saute onion, garlic and tomatillos in oil until soft. Add juices and spices. Simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring. Set aside and allow to cool. Place chickens in a large container or large resealable bags. Cover with sauce and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours (I did it overnight). Preheat grill. Remove chicken halves from marinade and place on medium hot grill. Grill for about 30 minutes turning occasionally and basting with reserved sauce every 10 minutes. Do not baste in the last 10 minutes of grilling. Remove when done and serve with salsa and tortillas. I top the tacos with queso fresco and garnish with radishes, limes, and tomatoes.

Frijoles Charros (Cowboy Beans)

Charro Beans
Bowl of charro beans when the author suddenly remembered to photograph it. Half eaten and unphotogenic, it was nonetheless delicious!
  • 2 lbs. pinto beans washed, soaked in water overnight, and drained
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or lard
  • 2 sprigs epazote
  • 1/2 lb. bacon, diced (chorizo may also be used)
  • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 serrano chiles, chopped
  • salt to taste

Place the beans in a large pot with half the onion, half the garlic, oil and epazote. Add 2 quarts water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until tender (35-45 minutes if done in a pressure cooker). Add salt to taste. In a large saucepan or clay casserole, cook the diced bacon until some of its fat is rendered, add the remaining onion and garlic, and saute until the onion softens. Add the tomato and chile, and continue cooking until the tomato releases its juice. Add the cooked beans with their liquid and cook over a low flame for 20-30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste for salt. Serves 12-15 (I make only half of this recipe).

Salsa Muy Asada Roja (from Felix’ in Cabo San Lucas)

  • 3 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños (to taste)
  • cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

Place everything but the salt in a large iron skillet (or nonstick frying pan) making sure that all items make contact with the metal. Turn on the heat and let the vegetables get burnt on the outside. Turn as needed to insure this…don’t worry it’s okay. Once the vegetables are nice and charred on the outside, remove them and deglaze the skillet with some water. Add the vegetables, salt, cilantro, and just enough of the deglazing water to keep the salsa thick and blend to a somewhat chunky consistency. You should end up with a rich, smokey, almost maroon colored salsa!

Curtido (spicy pickled cabbage salad)

  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 white onion or 3 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

This dish form El Salvador is traditionally served with pupusas (filled tortillas). Some folks put it on fish tacos, so I thought it would go with my tacos as well. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Let the liquid drain from your portions as you serve them. Note that some recipes call for blanching the cabbage in boiling water for one minute before mixing. I’ll think I’ll do this next time since the marinade alone did not quite soften the cabbage as much as I would have liked. This is related to saurkraut and kimchee so it keeps for awhile.


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