Peruvian-style pollo a la brasa, or rotisserie chicken, is perhaps one of the most well-known Peruvian dishes here in the U.S. due to the many take-out joints around the country (depending on where you live!). It is also one of the most consumed dishes in Peru. A whole chicken is marinated overnight in a combination of garlic, herbs, soy and vinegar, and then roasted whole on a spit, often over a charcoal fire. The chicken is always served with creamy, mayonnaise-type sauces, typically bright with aji amarillo chile pepper. Very often it is accompanied by French fries and salad with ranch dressing. My kind of yum!
Of course, we will adapt the recipe to our situation, since a rotisserie grill is not a part of my kitchen apparatus! I’ve used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for ease and convenience, and then grilled them on my outdoor grill. You could bake them in your oven, and then finish off under the broiler to crisp up the skin if desired.
Also on the menu is Papa a la Huancaína (wan-kay-eena), another favorite Peruvian staple – think potatoes smothered in a blanket of creamy, cheesy, spicy sauce. And for comfort food at its finest, I’ve taken the same huancaína sauce, and applied it to macaroni, for a new twist on macaroni and cheese.
The anchor of Peruvian cuisine is the beautiful golden amarillo chile. The chili pods have a thick skin, are 4 – 5 inches long and are considered hot on the spicy scale. But the aji amarillo balances that heat with a bit of fruity flavor. Admittedly, it can be difficult to find depending on where you live. Perhaps the best bet is to find a jar of paste in a Latin market, or dried chiles that you can turn into paste. If you can’t obtain the chile, I read about a hack on Epicurious, where you can substitute an orange bell pepper with a habanero pepper for a similar effect. If all else fails, try substituting a bit of your favorite hot sauce in any of the recipes presented this month.
Have fun cooking, and please feel free to reach out to me with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rotisserie Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa) (Tested)
This is potentially a three-part recipe, but I hope that doesn’t scare you off from making it! First, you will marinate the chicken overnight. Then, depending on whether you are able to obtain aji amarillo paste, you may have to make your own. That recipe is also included here. Finally, you will make a very simple yogurt sauce to accompany the chicken. So although the recipe looks long, it’s pretty simple to execute.
Peru’s iconic peppers, aji amarillo, which are used in just about everything, can be difficult to find depending on where you live. In Latin markets you may find them frozen, in jars as a paste, or perhaps dried – rarely fresh though. You should also check the spice section, where I’ve found aji amarillo chile powder (at Whole Foods). Amazon is always a source if you plan ahead. If all else fails, you can try substituting 1 orange bell pepper and ½ of a habanero pepper. (Sauté the peppers together and blend to make a paste.) Or use your favorite hot sauce in place of anything calling for the aji amarillo paste.
4 tbsp. purchased aji amarillo or aji panca paste (or see recipe below)
2 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 tbsp. minced rosemary
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup oil
8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on (about 3 lb.)
Put all ingredients into a large bowl and marinate overnight, or at least four hours.
Cook the chicken as desired, either on your grill, or baked in the oven until done. Serve with Yogurt-Chile Sauce (recipe below).
Makes about 1 ¼ cups
½ cup yogurt
½ cup buttermilk or mayonnaise
2 green onions, chopped fine
1 tbsp. aji amarillo paste
1 tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. ground cumin
½ to 1 tsp. kosher salt
Blend ingredients together and refrigerate about an hour before serving to thicken. Serve with the chicken.
Recipe and photo credit: Linda McElroy
Adapted from “The Fire of Peru,” by Ricardo Zarate and Jenn Garbee