Annatto Powder, Achiote Paste, and Neon Red Pollo Supremo
|Bright red chicken and carne asada-- The Combo Plate from El Pollo Supremo.|
|Annatto seeds whole and powdered.|
If you've ever stopped by a carniceria (Mexican butcher) or hit up Pro's Ranch Market, you've seen this bright red chicken in the raw. But there's only once place in the valley where this neon red bird comprises over half of the menu: El Pollo Supremo.
(sink your teeth into all the spicy details after the jump)
|Making tiny chicken tacos and burritos at El Pollo Supremo.|
The potent pigment in annatto powder, is what gives this grilled chicken its deep red color. The annatto seed has been used to dye just about everything, from fabric to slices of good old fashioned American cheese across the world. In addition to Mexico, annatto is used in cooking across South and Central America, through the island nations of the Caribbean, and in the Philippines.
|A block of achiote paste, available at any Food City.|
The chicken at El Pollo Supremo doesn't taste so much like this distinct combination of spices as much as it does delicious grilled chicken. So it's likely that the wizards in the kitchen are tapping straight annatto powder to achieve that brilliant red hue rather than massaging breasts and thighs with achiote paste. Those kinky birds. But who are we to say? Every chef needs a couple secrets in the kitchen.
|Wikimedia Commons- Paul Goyette|
|DIY achiote paste.|
If you're choosing to purchase the annatto powder (or annatto seeds to grind into powder), be forewarned that the spice has two different hues. There's a water soluble yellowish tint and a much redder oil soluble color. So if you're looking to release the bright red color of the annatto powder, make sure to heat it in a sauce pan with oil before using. One part seed to two parts oil. Strain used seeds or powder after heating and discard.
Now that you've got shelf stable, bright red annatto oil, whip up some bright red grilled chicken to challenge El Pollo Supremo. There are also plenty of options for tasty bright red achiote chicken using the more easily obtained paste as well!
Know of any Mexican gems in the valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.