Sunday, August 1, 2021

Recipe: Peruvian Roast Chicken

Here’s another one that we make every so often around stately Lowe Manor. When we had it last week, I just had to roast it in the oven – normally I’d put it on the rotisserie on the grill outside, but weather conditions did not allow it. Like many such recipes, this one is all about the marinade. You’ll need oil, lemon or lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, cumin, oregano, and sugar in this case (along with around a four-pound whole chicken), but you’ll find a number of variations around those ingredients and their ratios if you look around at other recipes. But this one comes out pretty much like pollo a la brasa when I have it at a Peruvian restaurant, which is close enough for me. I’m also including a recipe for a “green sauce” like you’ll often see at those places – if you’re making that, you’ll need some mayonnaise, sour cream, oil, fresh cilantro/coriander, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, and some source of pepper heat (jalapeños or other hot green chilis, bottled green pepper sauce, etc.)

A small food processor of some sort will come in handy with the marinade, but you don’t have to use one. Either way, combine 3 tablespoons (45 mL) oil (I generally use olive oil for this), 1/4 cup (60 mL) fresh lime or lemon juice, four good-sized cloves of garlic (finely chopped if you’re not using a food processor, otherwise just tossed in with the rest), 1 or 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (about 3g), a tablespoon of kosher salt (13g if it’s Morton’s kosher, or weigh out other varieties of salt accordingly, because they sure do vary in density), one tablespoon (6g) of ground cumin (fresh is best if you can grind some from the seeds), one tablespoon (also about 6g) of paprika (it really does have a taste as well as a color, if you’re wondering – “Pride of Szeged” is a pretty solid supermarket brand of it), one teaspoon (1g) dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons (8g) sugar.

Mix all these up vigorously, by hand or machine, to produce a thick, intensely aromatic red/brown marinade. You can treat the chicken with it in a (nonreactive) bowl or in big plastic bag. But whatever you use, I recommend getting as much of the marinade under the skin of the whole chicken as you can manage (breast, thigh, wherever you can work it in without tearing the skin itself, making sure to keep the marinade stirred up to get the solid spice residue in there). Put some in the chicken cavity and pour the rest over it, and let it stand, with occasional repositioning, for several hours. Overnight in the refrigerator is not out of line.

Roast the chicken at that point in whatever way you usually do – I’m a 400 degree (F) oven guy myself or (as mentioned) an outdoor rotisserie if available, which is how the Peruvians tend to do it. You can either use a meat thermometer or use the “wiggle the leg” method to check for doneness, but I assume that a whole chicken will take at least an hour at that temperature and probably some more. You might need to tent it with some aluminum foil if it starts getting too brown on the surface – this recipe tends to do that, so don’t be fooled by the color into thinking that the whole thing must be done, because it may not be.

Now for the green sauce. If you’re making that in some quantity, a small food processor or something of the sort will again be useful – it’ll blend everything right up, but if you’re doing it by hand, just finely chop the garlic and cilantro and green peppers, if you’re using them.. You’ll need 1/2 cup mayonnaise (115 grams, 1/4 cup sour cream (60g), two cloves of garlic, the juice of one small-to-medium lime, about a teaspoon of table salt (6g), two tablespoons (30 mL) of olive oil, and about a cup of fresh cilantro. I’m told that the latter would weigh about 16 grams, but I’m sure that’s an approximation – well, actually, the weight (whatever it is!) is exact and the volume measure is the approximation, depending on how you pack it, but I hope that gives some idea. And as for peppers, this is a matter of taste. Two or three jalapeños should do it for this quantity, and you can decide how much of the seeds to include for heat. You can use other green chilis as you have available, but you’ll have to judge the heat on your own – another option is green chili sauce of some sort, of course, and no one will be the wiser if you use something red like Tabasco or Sriracha (the green of the cilantro will conquer all). The authentic ingredient would be yellow Peruvian chili peppers (aji amarillo), which can be pretty lively. But you’ll have to add any of these according to taste. Another ingredient often found in this sauce would be a couple of tablespoons of a grated hard salty cheese like cotija or Parmesan – I didn’t use this myself, but it’s probably closer to the source with it in there. Even closer to the source would be this same sort of recipe made with a Peruvian herb called huacatay instead of cilantro – sometimes you’ll see these served side by side with chicken or other dishes in a restaurant, and there are plenty of other Peruvian sauces where those came from.

The picture below is our kitchen table, though, with a chicken prepared as above, some of the green sauce, some fresh red onion-cilantro-lime juice relish, homemade French fries, and some choclo al comino. That was made by quickly boiling a frozen bag of Peruvian corn (choclo) and serving it with butter, freshly ground cumin, and lime juice. I have two college-aged kids in the house at the moment, so nothing was left of any of this (and there’s more food not in the picture!.) It’s like keeping Great Danes, although I don’t know what Great Danes think about Peruvian corn.

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