Achiote, also called annato and used in the marinade for this recipe, has a tangy citrus quality.
MAKE AHEAD: The chicken needs to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Adapted from "American Flavor" by
Andrew Carmellini (Ecco, 2011).
4 to 8 servings
10 medium cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup tequila
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 limes (at least 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup store-bought or homemade guajillo or pasilla chili paste (lightly char 2 or 3 peppers, then stem, seed and soak in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes and puree)
1 tablespoon ground achiote powder (also called annato powder; available in Latino markets)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican, on the branch
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Two 3-pound whole chickens, preferably organic, cut into quarters (giblet packets removed)
Combine the garlic, oil, orange juice, tequila, lime juice, vinegar, chili paste, achiote powder, allspice, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in the blender. Blend on medium speed for 20 to 40 seconds to form a smooth, bubbly orange mixture.
Pour into a large resealable plastic food storage bag, then add the chicken, press as much air as possible out of the bag and seal. Massage to coat the chicken evenly. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours, but no longer, or the acidity of the marinade will negatively affect the texture of the chicken.
Thirty minutes before you cook the chicken, transfer it to the countertop (still in its marinade) so it comes closer to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Have a roasting pan with a rack inside at hand.
Place the chicken, skin side up, on the rack in the pan, reserving the marinade. Roast for 15 minutes.
Use some of the reserved marinade to baste the bird, adjusting the position of the pan as necessary to promote even browning. Repeat the basting process every 15 minutes until the chicken is springy to the touch when you poke it with a finger, about 45 minutes. The interior temperature of the dark meat (away from the bone) should register 165 to 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer; the white meat should register 150 to 155 degrees. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.