With a nod to Caribbean influences in New Orleans, Chef Evans incorporates island flavors in both the spicy marinade and the ripe-fruit salsa. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, needs to be warmed before being added to the marinade—and contributing a deliciously subtle coconut flavor to the poultry.
Spiced Chicken with Papaya-Mango Salsa
For the chicken
- 2 3-lb. whole chickens
- 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 medium scallions, coarsely chopped
- 6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 fresh habanero chiles, seeded
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 Tbs. coconut oil, melted
- 2 Tbs. tamari
- 1 Tbs. white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs. honey, preferably raw
- 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tbs. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Canola oil for the grill and brushing
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Fresh cilantro and mint leaves, for garnish
For the papaya-mango salsa
- 1/2 medium (about 2 lb.) papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2-1/2 cups)
- 1 large (about 1 lb.) mango, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 fresh red chile, such as Fresno, seeded and finely chopped
- 3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
- Kosher salt
Prepare the chicken
- Working with 1 chicken at a time, put it breast side down on a cutting board. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut along the length of the backbone on both sides and remove. (Discard or save for stock.)
- Flip the chicken, breast side up, and press down with the palm of your hand to flatten. With the shears or a sharp chef’s knife, cut the chicken in half lengthwise through the breast bone.
- In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, garlic, habaneros, lime juice, coconut oil, tamari, vinegar, honey, thyme, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, and 1-1/2 tsp. pepper. Process to a paste and transfer to a large shallow baking dish, or split among 2 gallon-size zip-top bags. Add the chicken halves and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or seal the bags and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
- Let the chickens sit out at room temperature for 1 hour to lose the chill. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat (350°F to 375°F). Brush clean and oil the grate with canola oil.
- Remove the chickens from the marinade and wipe off the marinade. Brush the chickens all over with canola oil and lightly season with salt. Transfer to grill and cover, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°F, about 30 minutes. As the chicken halves are ready, transfer to a large serving platter, cover with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Make the salsa
- Meanwhile, stir together the papaya, mango, onion, jalapeño, red chile, lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, and mint in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and set aside. The salsa can be made up to 1 day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
- To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter with the lime wedges and sprinkle with cilantro and mint leaves. Pass the salsa on the side.