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Roasted chili cumin chicken with pickled red onions

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There, she had one of those “omigod” bites, her first taste of the Gunthorp Chicken Torta, wood-roasted red chile chicken with pickled white onion, black beans, avocado and tomatillo salsa. To my great good fortune, the “Mexican submarine sandwich,” as XOCO’s website calls it, was too generous for her to finish. So she brought it home, and I was treated to my own “omigod” moment.

These flavorful chicken thighs, inspired by Bayless’s heavenly torta, fall somewhere between comfort food and “omigod,” I think. More kind of a “Wow, this is good. Really good.” Their big spicy (but not hot) taste doesn’t quite match the complexity – or authenticity, I’m sure – of the wood-grilled chicken on the torta, but there is a lot going on with them flavorwise. And the crunch and sweet tang of the pickled onions adds a welcome freshness and brightness to this lively main course.

The inspiration for the onions came from all over. It began with the pickled white onions on the torta, of course, but my mind immediately jumped to a post Laura had written over at What I Like on The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. And we just happened to have a copy of it, courtesy of the library. Kevin at Closet Cooking, Elise at Simply Recipes and our man in Paris, David Leibovitz, all had interesting takes on them too. As usual, I read them all and then smooshed together my own version.

This is one of those fresh pickled dishes that doesn’t require sterilized jars, airtight seals or weeks in a dark cellar. I threw this together in about ten minutes in the morning, and we were enjoying it on the chicken that evening. And by the way, the beautiful rose color comes strictly from the onion – no colorings were added.

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