When I was living in Mexico, whenever I didn’t feel like cooking, I’d hit up the nearest roadside vendor or neighborhood stand selling pollo al carbon. I’d buy a whole grilled chicken with salsa verde, pick up some fresh, still-warm tortillas, and resist the temptation to stand in the street using those very tortillas to pull chunks of juicy meat off the bone. Because I’m now living in the U.S., I developed this recipe for my cookbook, The Comic Kitchen, mostly so that I can eat this anytime I want. And now you can too! Because the coals generally burn longer than you need for just the chicken, take advantage of that residual heat to warm up tortillas and make fire-roasted salsa verde.
Speaking of salsa, use jalapeños for a milder salsa and serrano chiles if you prefer something a little fiery. Instead of a whole chicken, skin-on, bone-in breasts are ideal for easy prep and grilling. Resist the temptation to go with skinless, boneless breasts for this. Although this method may take a little longer to cook, the boost in flavor and juiciness from using skin-on, bone-in breasts is well worth it.
“Al carbon” specifically refers to charcoal, though it is completely possible to do this on a gas grill. The directions are largely the same: Just light half the burners to create the same 2-zone heating situation. —Jarrett Melendez