Green Achiote Cornish Game Hen
Full disclosure: I’ve spent my entire life eating Mexican food; I’m Xicano (Mexican-American). I’ve lived in Mexico. It wasn’t until last week (Apr. 2021) that I learned of the existence of green achiote and that was by mistake. I had unintentionally grabbed a block of green achiote paste, thinking it was the usual achiote I buy.
Achiote, as I knew it, was ground anatto seed paste. It is used as a base for marinades, both for color and flavor. It lends a wonderfully bright orange/red hue to foods, as well as an earthy, peppery aspect to the flavor profile. The greatest iteration of any achiote-based recipe I’ve experienced was the Pollo Rostisado (Roasted Chicken) from a little grill up the block from the house I lived in, in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. I wish I could remember the name of that stand. It is the most memorable chicken I’ve ever eaten.
When I discovered that I had unintentionally grabbed achiote verde (green achiote) I was taken aback:
How could this exist without my knowledge? Is there a species of green anatto?
In it’s Merriam Webster definition, achiote is defined as:
“…a spice made from the red seed of the anatto tree; also: the seed from which the spice is made.”
Achiote verde is a paste made from allspice, black pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, salt, vinegar, cornmeal, and a preservative. After much searching of the internet, I was only able to ascertain that its origins are Mayan. I have contacted the manufacturer of the paste in an attempt to further research the use of the word “achiote” in its product’s name, but have yet to receive an answer. Nevertheless, the company’s regular achiote is great, so I went ahead and carried out my mission, with great success.
3ea Cornish game hens
1.5oz (1/2 block) green achiote paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ tsp ground cumino
½ tsp granulated garlic
½ tsp onion powder
¼ cup fruit juice (natural; citrus or tropical)
Place all ingredients (except the hens, of course) into a small food processor and process until all the ingredients are homogenized (brought together into a single, uniform marinade). In a large mixing bowl, cover the hens with the marinade and make sure to get marinade inside of the hens’ cavities, as well. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.
For this particular instance, I grilled the hens, as I would chickens, but you can roast it in the oven or rotisserie, or sear and roast or bake: 350°F for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the hens. Whatevers. Luxuriate!