Chicken al Pastor Skewers
On our first trip to Mexico City, Manny and I were completely blown away by the city; the food, the people, the sights, the museums... hey, did I mention the food? To be fair, we were told to be prepared, but between the night-time laser light show on the pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacán, the museum of anthropology, the local artists and representative artists from each distinct region of Mexico, the crickets served over guacamole, the barbacoa, the carnitas, the insanely good smells from all the various foods we walked past and at a minimum five meals a day, there was nothing that could have prepared us for how much we would enjoy the city. That doesn't even touch on the nearly religious experience of the tacos al pastor in the city. There are as many ways to prepare tacos al pastor as there are vendors in the city. Everyone has their own secret adobo marinade and salsa pairing; some use red salsas and some green. All of them cook the pork on what is called a "trompo" that we typically recognize as "that thing the gyro meat spins on while it's cooking". The beauty of cooking the meat this way is that when you shave it off the trompo onto the tacos you get a mixture of textures and flavors you wouldn't otherwise get. There's crunchy, caramelized pieces, some tender, juicy pieces, and everything has that distinctive (and very unique to each vendor) signature adobo flavor that we fell in love with. It's the perfect marraige of flavors in our opinion. This recipe adaptation is for chicken, and we promise you won't be disappointed.
While you can bone and skin your own chicken, boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts are so ubiquitous in the US, it's easier to start there unless you have a use for the bones and skin (i.e. broth). The al pastor marinade here is the star of the show. It has pineapple juice in it, though, so be aware that the enzymes in the pineapple juice will start to break-down your chicken while it's marinating, so no more than overnight in the marinade or your chicken texture will be off when you cook it. Lastly, the grilled pineapple is important to the recipe. It's the sweet side to the savory adobo and chicken. Canned pineapple is not the same as fresh pineapple. It's not even a close race either. Find a whole pineapple or one that is in the deli/produce area that's been cut up for you. Better yet, if you get two, juice one for the marinade ingredients and cut one up into rough chunks that you can grill for the toppings.
As always, from our table to yours... #SpiceConfidently #EssenceOfFlavor #ChemistryInTheKitchen #CasaMSpice
— Mike Hernandez
For the Adobo Marinade:
- 1 recipe of our Casa M al pastor marinade
For the Skewers:
- 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into strips
- 1 Pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces large enough to stay on a skewer
Pulling it All Together:
- 24 taco-sized tortillas
- lime wedges
- cilantro leaves
The beauty of cooking the meat this way is that when you shave it off the trompo onto the tacos you get a mixture of textures and flavors you wouldn't otherwise get.- Mike Hernandez
LET’S GET COOKING
In a large bowl add the chicken pieces and pour the marinade over the chicken. Mix thoroughly to ensure the marinade fully coats the chicken.
Cover the bowl with food film and place into the refrigerator.
Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for at least four (4) hours, but up to overnight (24 hours max).
When you're ready to make your tacos, preheat your grill to high heat with a section set aside for indirect heating.
Use skewers and pierce each piece of chicken onto a skewer alternating chicken and pineapple chunks keeping the pieces very tightly packed and close together. For us, 4 pounds of chicken was 8 skewers with decent sized chunks of pineapple.
Place the skewered chicken and pineapple over indirect heat initially and cook, turning regularly, until the internal temperature reaches 145°F
Move the skewers over direct HIGH heat to sear, turning regularly. At this point, the chicken is cooked through and in this step you're looking to get charred pieces on the outside of the skewer (see photos) and an internal temperature of at least 160°F.
Remove the chicken skewers to a platter (leaving the chicken on the skewers) and let them rest while you prepare to assemble tacos.
To assemble the tacos, lay three warmed tortillas out flat on a plate, then on a cutting board slice parallel to the skewer cutting small pieces of chicken off the edges of the chicken and pineapple on the skewer. This technique gets you a balance of textures and tastes from the chicken, some caramelized, some tender and juicy, all with deep, rich homemade al pastor marinade flavor. Add salsa and any toppings you'd like and then dig in while they're hot. You'll find that they go very quickly and once you taste them, you'll understand why.