the appetizer:

Daisy: Morning, Noon, and Night—Bringing Your Family Together with Everyday Latin Dishes by Daisy Martinez includes recipes like The Choripan; Shrimp Ceviche ("Xni Pec"); Peruvian Roast Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa); and Milanesas (Panfried Breaded Veal, Turkey, Pork, Beef or Chicken Cutlets).

Cookbook Profile

Peruvian Roast Chicken
(Pollo a la Brasa)

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Peruvian Roast Chicken


I know that I am going to get some flak for this, but I really do believe that a perfectly cooked Peruvian rotisserie-roasted chicken (pollo a la brasa) is nothing short of a deeply religious experience. It is no small wonder, then, that Peruvian restaurant owners treat their roast chicken recipes like a matter of national security! While I've eaten plenty of Peruvian roast chicken in Peru and in many of my favorite Peruvian restaurants here in New York City (no two are alike!), I found that my attempts in the kitchen to re-create anyone of those delicious birds always fell short of the elusive flavor I was searching for. Roast chicken after roast chicken came out of my oven or the rotisserie, until one of my kids said to me, "Mom, please...can we change it up a bit?" So, the train of chickens continued its exodus out of my oven and over to my neighbors (whom I often engage as guinea pigs in quests like this), until I finally came up with a combination that made me happy.

My final assessment? While most of us do not have the luxury of an open-flame rotisserie, we can approximate pollo a la brasa in a conventional oven, but there is one procedure that is nonnegotiable: marinate, marinate, marinate! This will result in a moist, juicy, flavorful chicken that is well worth the extra attention. The amount of garlic is just enough to make the chicken interesting without being overpowering, and the small amount of grated fresh ginger plays beautifully in contrast to the malty, salty, tart flavors of malta, soy sauce, and lime juice. Try this next time you make roast chicken—it's a different take on an old favorite, and a lot cheaper than airfare to Peru!

Prep Time: 20 minutes (plus up to a day for marinating)
Cook Time: 1-1/2 hours

1. Stir the adobo, pepper, oregano, and lime juice together in a small bowl. Loosen the skin over the chicken breasts and as much of the legs as you can by working your fingers gently in between the meat and skin. Flip the chickens over and do the same to as much of the skin over the back as you can. With the aid of a teaspoon, work about three-fourths of the adobo mixture under the skin of the chickens and inside the cavities. Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen twine and rub the remaining adobo mixture over the skin of the chickens.

2. Stir the soy sauce and malta together in a small bowl. Divide between 2 gallon-size resealable plastic bags. Add 2 cloves of the garlic and half the ginger to each bag. Put 1 chicken in each bag, seal the bag, pressing out excess air, and squish the liquid around so it coats the chicken evenly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. Turn and squish the chickens occasionally.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

4. Drain the chickens thoroughly. Put the chickens on a rack in a roasting pan. Tuck the wing tips underneath each chicken to hold the wings firmly against the sides of the chicken.

5. Roast until the juices run clear (not pink) when you pierce the meat between the thigh and the leg, about I hour

6. Let the chickens rest for 10 minutes. Cut each one into 4 to 8 pieces before serving with the aji verde.

Notes: Malta is a malt-based nonalcoholic beverage that is found all over Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. It is purported to boost iron levels in the blood (especially when mixed with raw eggs, as I have often seen!). You can find malta in every bodega in every borough of New York City (literally) and in any market that serves even a smallish Latin population. If you cannot find it, beat 2 tablespoons molasses and 3 to 4 tablespoons water together and use that instead.

The traditional way to cook Peruvian chicken is a la brasa, on a rotating spit over an open flame, using either coal or wood as fuel. While most of us don't have the luxury of a countertop rotisserie (late-night-television impulse purchase, anyone?), I found that when I tried the recipe on the rotisserie on my gas grill, and added a chunk or two of charcoal to the smoke box, it really brought the bird to another level. This rendition of my recipe, while not strictly a la brasa, is a tasty, juicy, easier version that is sure to become a staple in your repertoire.


Aji Verde

Aji Verde ("ah-HEE ver-de") is the Peruvian equivalent of Mexican tomatillo salsa (page 103). It is everywhere, on practically every table in every restaurant. And no wonder! Besides the Peruvian Roast Chicken, it is wonderful served alongside ceviche, Cumin-Scented Fried Potatoes (page 153), Barbecued Beef Short Ribs (page 88), and Daisy's Grilled Chicken Express (page 92); as a dip for chips; and a whole lot more!

Makes about -1/4 cups
Prep Time: 20 minutes

Put the cilantro, scallions, jalapeños, cheese, and garlic in the work bowl of a food processor and process until very finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Squeeze in the lime juice and then add enough water to make a sauce with the consistency of a thick milkshake. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The sauce can be refrigerated for a few days, but bring it to room temperature before serving.


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This page created October 2010