MF Chicken


We looked and looked for “higher welfare chicken” for this blog recipe.  Oh, how we love the Brits and their expressions!  And, after finishing a few test recipes, Andy was busily scrubbing the dirty roasting pan when lights flashed.  Scrubbies!  Read Andy’s Corner for more.  And Annatto seeds are a pain to find and grind up to use in a Mexican rub.  But you don’t need to do that.  Use achiote paste; delicious, easy, and available.

It all began about 5 years ago. Our SF Familia, Joe & Sara, were talking about their love of El Pollo Loco, back in its good old early days, the 1980s. Andy and I recalled the mandatory visits we’d make to the one in Chino, CA every time we visited Andy’s folks. We’d pick up a spit-roasted chicken, delicious pinto beans, and slaw, bring it back to the house and 3 generations were all well-fed and content.

So we couldn’t have been more pleased to hear that Joe & Sara were thinking of doing an updated version of that concept in SF. But we were perplexed by the name they chose: MF Chicken. I assumed “Mexican Fighting Chicken,” thus tying the name into their Mexican-themed restaurant, Tacolicious. We do, after all, have a family history of fighting chickens (see the photo below of Andy’s dad, circa 1935, Norco, CA). I even went so far as to buy 2 lovely little wire Mexican-made fighting chickens – one for J&S and one for us – to commemorate the name (see photo above).
Gus with rooster

Andy, who always sees things in a happier light than I do,  thought MF Chicken meant “Mom’s Finest Chicken.” Or maybe “My Favorite Chicken.”

Long story short: MF Chicken, whatever that means, is finally coming to fruition, but as a delivery-based option for you lucky SF-ers, not a restaurant.MFChickenBag

Because the recipe for MF Chicken is known only to a few special souls, plus includes brining, a dry rub, and a rotisserie, I decided to make my own version of a Mexican achiote-based roasted chicken, since there’s no spit-roaster in our house – and probably not in yours either.  And I wanted it to be really really simple.

If you can’t find achiote in your market, you can get it online.  It will keep in the refrigerator (maybe forever?) and you won’t use much at a time.  Or if you’re not in the mood for Mexican or don’t have time for a 4-hour-ish marinade, nothing is simpler than a basic roasted chicken:  dry it well; add a few rosemary sprigs under the skin, sprinkle about 2 tsp of salt inside and outside and then roast just the same as our MF Chicken.  A perfect and most unique salad to go along with the chicken is our newest Best of the Besties recipe, Watermelon and Tomatillo Salad from David in Albuquerque.  And before dinner, you must have a Fresh Strawberry Margarita; the recipes follow the MF Chicken recipe.

Remember that if you’re cooking for just 1 or 2 – you’ll love the leftovers.  If you want to learn more about annatto seeds, read this Smithsonian article we posted in Food for Thought.


My Favorite Chicken

  • Servings: 4
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  • 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds; I LOVE the British term “higher welfare” chicken.  That’s so much more colorful than “free-range.”
  • or 6-8 (about 3 #) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, hopefully higher welfare,
  • or chicken breasts – if that’s your thing; even boneless, skinless will work

Achiote rub

  • 1/3 c achiote paste (red)
  • 3/4 c orange juice (fresh is great but not essential)
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (optional – but it gives that familiar orange-yellowish color)
  • oil for coating the baking pan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Put the ingredients for the achiote rub in a blender or food processor and blend until the achiote is mixed in well.

Place the chicken in a large, zip-lock bag, pour in the achiote rub and “massage” the chicken until it’s coated completely with the rub.  Let marinade for around 3 hours in the refrigerator.  Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 1 hour before you intend to put it in the oven (but don’t worry if you forget).

Oil a baking pan.  Place the chicken in the pan, leaving the excess marinade in the bag for tossing away.  If you’re using thighs or breasts, be sure there is space between them and place them skin side up.  If you’re using a whole chicken, place it breast side up and tuck in the wings.

Bake the whole chicken for about 1 hr and 10 minutes, checking after an hour.  The achiote paste will create a nice “burnished” look; don’t fret.  If you’re cooking thighs or breasts, about 40 minutes of baking time should do it (but the size of thighs and breasts varies tremendously; adjust the time accordingly).  If the thighs or breasts are boneless and skinless, reduce the time still more.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.  

Leftovers?  Start with TOAST, remembering our last blog.  Thinly sliced chicken, a little mayo, and artisan bread, toasted, is quick and perfect. The list goes on:  try simple chicken tacos topped with homemade or canned Salsa Verde, some chopped cilantro, maybe a bit of chopped onion, and a dash of Tapatio.   A Mexican chicken salad can be quickly put together with drained and rinsed, canned black beans, slices of avocado, slivered cabbage, red onion, tomatoes, if they’re in season, and some tortilla chips and maybe a little queso fresco; use a dressing of your choice.  Or use the bones and skin to make a broth, which will have a delicious Mexican twist to the flavor.

Recipe brought to you by Big Little Meals and Andy & Ann

Watermelon tomatillo

Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad

  • Servings: 4
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Pati Jinich gave us inspiration for the Mexican Mushroom and Rice Casserole so when our Albuquerque friend, David, recommended another one of her recipes, we were ready try it.  We only waited for decent watermelons to hit the market and here they are!  I tweaked the recipe a bit, because we like the sour-ish tomatillos diced, not sliced, and do make a note – we’re talking tomatillos, not tomatoes! In regard to spiciness, you need to be ever alert to the fact that it is impossible to judge the hotness level of jalapenos.  You may be lulled into dicing up a big chunk of one and then find yourself with your eyes watering, your nose running, and your mouth on fire.  My only recommendation is to taste a bit of each jalapeno before using.  And one more variation: if tomatillos are hard for you to find or you’re not crazy about them, substitute cucumbers, which have been peeled, de-seeded, and chopped.  The recipe will halve easily and will keep for another day, as long as you don’t add the vinaigrette or cheese.


  • 4 c watermelon, cut into bite size cubes
  • 2 c tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and sliced and diced – or substitute diced cucumber
  • 2/3 c feta or queso fresca, crumbled


  • 1 T fresh mint leaves, chopped (and a little extra if you want to garnish the salad)
  • 1 T jalapeno, minced (optional); I always remove both the seeds and the membrane)
  • 2 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T vegetable oil

Put the watermelon cubes and tomatillo bits in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the mint, jalapeno, lime juice, vinegar, and salt.  Whisk in the olive oil and vegetable oil.

Pour the vinaigrette on top of the watermelon and tomatillos, toss well, sprinkle the cheese on the top, and serve immediately, garnishing with a little more mint, if desired.

Recipe brought to you by Albuquerque David and Big Little Meals.


Fresh Strawberry Margarita

  • Servings: 1
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We typically take a pint basket of strawberries, hull them, and then put them in a blender or food processor along with 1-2T of sugar and process until it’s pureed.  You’ll end up with about 1c + of strawberry puree.  It’s easy to make the drink non-alcoholic; just add more o.j. to replace the tequila and maybe a splash of soda water.

What you don’t use of the strawberry puree for margaritas can be used as an ice cream topping or gently simmered with a little more sugar and served over French Toast or pancakes.


  • 1 oz sweetened strawberry puree
  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz agave syrup (1/2 oz water and 1/2 oz agave)
  • 1/2 oz fresh orange juice (optional)

Serve with mint or an orange peel….over the rocks.  I prefer the rim unsalted (or un-sugared) but you might like to try that.

Recipe brought to you by Big Little Meals and Andy and Ann.



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