Not too long ago, I read an article on Bon Appetit about the epic lines, formed daily, of people trying to snag a table at the restaurant Rose’s Luxury in Washington, D.C. Bon Appetit also declared it one of the new best restaurant’s of 2014. I quickly went to their website to check out their menu, then their instagram, where I saw THIS. With no immediate (or distant) plans to visit Washington, or to ‘Swelter for hours in line‘ I did what I always do when a dish looks appealing; I went on a mad search for the best recipe and method of making it.
I have cooked a lot of whole chickens on the grill, always good but pretty standard. So I was surprised to find that the ingredients for this South American dish didn’t seem to be all that different or exotic, yet after making it, we all fell in love with the depth of flavour of this chicken. Aside from a few key ingredients in this recipe, the size of the chicken is pretty important. You don’t want a massive chicken for this one, a 3-4 pound size is best. Give the chicken a good massage with the marinade and get as much under the skin as possible, then let it hang out for a few hours covered in the fridge. If you didn’t plan ahead for the “hang-out” time, go ahead and cut corners and make it anyway. The marinade is strong enough, and the cooking time long enough, to achieve a tender chicken with great flavour.
This Peruvian chicken is usually referred to as Pollo a la Brasa since it is traditionally cooked in a rotisserie over burning charcoal. Failing access to a rotisserie setup (now on my bucket list), or an outdoor grill, roasting the chicken in a very hot oven is a good option. The recipe I provide is for grilling (on a BBQ) since I love the charred smoky flavour this method imparts. I have added cooking times for roasting in the oven in the note section below. Also traditionally, Pollo a la Brasa is served with a side of potato or yucca fries, as well as a not-too-hot creamy and tangy green sauce. I would love to tell you there are no trips to a specialty market for this one but if you want this delicious, lip-smacking green sauce to dip your crispy chicken pieces into, a quick trip to a Hispanic market is required. Aji amarillo is a paste made from Peruvian hot chiles and is a main ingredient in Peruvian cooking. The paste is spicy but with a complex flavour that will be tempered by the sour cream (or mayo) added to the sauce. Without the aji paste your sauce will still be really good, just maybe not out-of-this-world.
Finally, if grilling, butterflying (or spatchcocking) your chicken is highly recommended. A flatter chicken will cook quicker and more evenly. Once completely reliant on the mercy of a good-natured butcher to cut up my chicken, I have now become a lot less prissy and do the whole thing myself. If you are feeling brave, and have a bit of time, follow this great video on how to spatchcock here. Otherwise, buy your chicken where you can ask the butcher to do it for you and save yourself the work. From there, I think you will agree with me, that with very little effort the chicken you will be eating is pretty great.
Peruvian chicken (Pollo a la Brasa) with Aji Green Sauce
- For the Chicken:
- 1 3-4 pound chicken
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons paprika not smoked
- 2 Tablespoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- juice from 1 lime
- 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- For the Aji Green Sauce:
- 2 jalapeño roughly chopped (seeded if less heat is desired)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tablespoons aji amarillo* optional but really delicious
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt or mayonnaise or a mix of both
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a pinch of freshly cracked pepper
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Make the Green Sauce:
- Add all the sauce ingredients, except the olive oil, to a blender or food processor. Blend on high speed until smooth. With the blender on low, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until well incorporated. Set aside. Can be made up to 3 days ahead.
- Make the Chicken:
- Combine the soy sauce, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, and olive oil in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Place chicken on a large sheet pan or baking dish.
- With your fingers, loosen the chicken breast skin carefully. Rub chicken all over with the marinade including under the skin. If possible, allow to marinate for 4 hours covered in the fridge.
- Remove chicken from fridge 1 hour before grilling.
- Prepare grill to high heat. Clean and oil grill grates and turn one side of grill to low.
- Place chicken breast side up on cooler side of grill. Cook with grill covered for about 20-25 minutes. Carefully flip chicken and place breast side down on grill and cook for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the chicken skin is crisp and beautifully caramelized. If the chicken is cooking and browning too quickly, lower the temperature of the grill and careful move the chicken to the coolest part of your grill.
- Transfer chicken to a large platter or cutting board. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving. Serve with green sauce.
Though pictured with the ingredients, I no longer add the beer to the marinade. I find the chicken results crispier without it.
*Aji amarillo can be found at most Latin American stores and though optional, will add an incredible flavour to the sauce.
Cooking times for the chicken will really depend on your grill. Check the chicken often to ensure flare ups are not burning the chicken and cook longer if the chicken skin hasn't achieved a crispy, dark brown colour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Prepare a roasting pan with a rack. Place chicken on rack and roast in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the skin is very crispy and dark brown. Halfway through the cooking time, turn roasting pan to ensure even cooking. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with green sauce.