Roast chicken with ancho chile rub is a traditional Mexican Sunday lunch dish and definitely a comfort food. Served with a fresh coleslaw dressed with oranges and potato chips on the side, it sounds perfectly lovely to us.
Roasted chickens–pollos rostizados–are normally sold in Mexico City right next to panaderías, which also sell pickled chiles, salsa and handmade crisps: comfort food to take away. To make your own, marinate the chicken overnight in the refrigerator and prepare the orange dressing in advance–that way, all you have to do on the day is shred vegetables and open a bag of crisps!–Edson Diaz-Fuentes
Roast Chicken with Ancho Chile Rub
For the ancho dry rub
- 1 ounce dried ancho chiles trimmed
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
For the chicken
- 1 large orange
- 1 (3 pound 5 ounce) whole chicken
- 3/4 ounce fresh ginger root peeled
- 4 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 1/2 ounces Ancho Dry Rub
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the orange coleslaw dressing
- 6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dark agave syrup or maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 ounce red onion peeled and thinly sliced
For the coleslaw
- 1/4 (10 oz) red cabbage
- 1/4 (10 oz) white cabbage
- 2 (7 oz) carrots peeled
- 1/2 chayote* (mirliton) (or substitute a medium zucchini)
- 1/4 ounce fresh cilantro leaves
- A large package of chips–or 2!
Make the ancho dry rub
- On a comal or in a non-stick skillet over medium to high heat, toast the chiles until soft and pliable, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them or they'll become bitter. Let cool.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the fennel and coriander seeds until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
- Place the toasted chiles, fennel and coriander seeds, cinnamon, salt, and sugar in a molcajete (or coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) and crush until finely ground. Pour the mixture into a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Prepare the chicken
- Juice the orange and dump the juice into a bowl. Place the squeezed orange halves inside the cavity of the chicken. Grate half the ginger and 2 of the garlic cloves into the orange juice. Place the remaining ginger and garlic in the cavity of the chicken (no need to grate them).
- Stir the ancho dry rub and olive oil into the mixture in the bowl to create a thick marinade, a bit thinner than a paste. (You may not need all of the oil). Spread the marinade over the chicken and massage it both over and under the skin. Move the chicken to the refrigerator and marinate for at least one hour, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Place the chicken in a heavy casserole dish or Dutch oven fitted with a lid. Cover and bake for 1 hour, then reduce the oven temperature to 340°F (170°C), uncover, and bake until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. To check that the chicken is cooked, insert a digital thermometer in the thickest part of the leg. It should register 165°F (74°C). If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the chicken where one of the legs joins the body. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done. If not, cook for 10 minutes more and test again. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the casserole dish and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Make the orange coleslaw dressing
- While the chicken is cooking, prepare the coleslaw dressing. In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together.
Make the coleslaw
- Thinly slice both cabbages and place in a large bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shred the carrot and chayote (or zucchini) into thin ribbons and add to the bowl. Toss in the cilantro leaves.
- Pour the dressing over the coleslaw and mix gently. Leave to infuse while the chicken is resting. Before serving, taste and adjust seasoning.
- Carve the chicken and serve with the coleslaw and chips.
*What is chayote?A member of the squash family, like zucchini, pumpkin, and cucumber, chayote is common in most parts of Latin America. Used extensively in South American cooking, it’s most often cooked, but used raw when marinated with citrus juice or vinegar. It has a fairly mild, cucumber-like taste and makes a terrific addition to salsas, salads, and coleslaw. Availability in North America is improving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe for roast chicken with ancho chile rub was a blast of flavor and fun. Every component worked, married well, and lived happily ever after. The ever after was not very long though. Even the remaining ancho dry rub lasted less than 3 days.
The rub was the star of this recipe and the coleslaw was the immediate runner up. One needed the other and they both needed chips. The spicy, sweet, tangy, crispy, mellow, smoky, fruity, refreshing, and depth of flavor nuances created such an exciting mélange.
My daughter couldn’t believe her luck that we were having chips with dinner. I used a non-salted very crispy chip. For a little extra fun, I threw in some “adult Miguelito” popcorn and a little sprinkle on the chips. Vinho Verde made an excellent beverage accompaniment.
As for all the leftover sauce in the pot, I skimmed the fat, reduced it, and added the leftover shredded chicken. Voilá! Pulled ancho rub chicken and slaw sandwiches. This ancho dry rub is my new pantry addition and this pot chicken will definitely be making a comeback.
I love a roast chicken…like really, really love a roast chicken. I will happily roast a chicken for just my husband and me during the week knowing that it will yield delicious leftovers to be used in lots of ways for a few days to come. Knowing that it will take us a few days to finish off, I default to a pretty plain Jane (but guaranteed delicious) approach. Hot and fast, with only salt, nothing extra that could cause steam and jeopardizes crispy skin.
While it is a guaranteed result, “vanilla” chicken does have its drawbacks and, like everything else I’ve cooked a million times on autopilot over the last 18 months, we had finally started to tire of it. As a result, roast chicken with ancho chile rub appealed. The polar opposite of my standard approach and all flavors that we like. The low and slow approach, covered, with a lot of steam sounded interesting. It sounded like (and delivered!) a delightful, subtly spiced, juicy chicken that my cooking rut was ready for.
That being said, unless you’re WFH, it isn’t a weeknight roast chicken. Don’t tell my boss I was prepping a chicken at 4 on a Tuesday… The leftover chicken has been amazing in a tortilla with some of the slaw. I can see making this again and serving it shredded with the slaw, corn tortillas, avocado, and fresh tomato.
Originally published August 9, 2021