Peruvian Chicken – Jewish Exponent

Peruvian chicken with green chili sauce. Photos by Keri White

Having returned from a recent trip to Peru, I enjoy experimenting with some of the techniques and ingredients I discovered there.

“Pollo a la brasa” is ubiquitous in Peru. Grilled on a spit and served with ají verde sauce, this seasoned whole chicken is an iconic dish featured in restaurants across the country.

Few American home cooks have access to a broiler or broiler, so this version suits a home kitchen with an oven. Chili peppers, which form the base of the sauce, are not readily available in the United States, but a jalapeno or any hot chile is a suitable substitute.

I made this dish for dinner on a Sunday and it was a complete success. The leftover meat was made into a delicious chicken salad sprinkled with celery and tossed with green chili peppers and mayonnaise the next day, and the fat from the pan and carcass resulted in a tasty, slightly ruddy chicken soup.

A word about the roasting technique: we’re fans of braising almost any meat; our family prefers meat that is tender to the point of almost falling apart and well seasoned. If your crew prefers a more traditional rotisserie chicken, cooked at a slightly higher temperature, uncovered, resulting in a firmer texture, stick with that cooking method and simply follow the recipe below for the marinade.

Peruvian Chicken
for 4 people

A note about the peppers: I used jalapenos and included the seeds for extra heat. If your crew has more timid palates, remove the seeds or use a milder pepper like a fresh poblano or even a quarter of a sweet bell.

1 rotisserie chicken, about 7 pounds
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeno pepper or whole chile
1 whole lime, juice plus zest
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

Puree all ingredients in a blender.

Place the chicken in a large zip-top bag or bowl and pour some of the marinade into the cavity. Separate the skin from the meat and add the remaining marinade, rubbing the mixture in to ensure optimal flavor. Let the chicken marinate for 2 to 24 hours. Bring it to room temperature before grilling.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chicken in a large roasting pan with a lid. Pour remaining marinade over chicken, cover, and cook until done, about 15-20 minutes per pound. (Cooking the bird covered often speeds up the process, so if you use that method, check to make sure it’s done about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.) When ready, let the chicken rest for 10 minutes, cut it up and serve it with the aji verde sauce. .

Green Chili Sauce

Aji amarillo refers to the yellowish hot peppers used in many Peruvian dishes. Jalapenos are a solid substitute. This sauce is traditionally made with a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise, but for this recipe, since it was served with chicken, I omitted the dairy and added a little more mayonnaise for texture.

If you’re serving fish, sour cream (or Greek yogurt) would work well, and this sauce would complement just about any fish. It’s also great as a vegetable dip, sauce for tacos or quesadillas, tossed with tuna salad, poured over grilled vegetables, mashed potatoes, or tossed with mayonnaise and spread on a sandwich. I haven’t tried drinking it neat or frosting a cake with it yet, but I might – it’s that versatile and delicious.

3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup fresh cilantro, well rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup mayonnaise (or ¼ cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream)
1 tablespoon canola oil

In a blender, puree all ingredients until smooth. If the sauce needs to “loose up” in the blender, add a teaspoon or two of water. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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