Friday, June 17, 2011

Peru: Re-creating El Pollo Rico

Ever since an ex-boyfriend introduced me to Peruvian Chicken a few years ago, I've been in love. Not with the guy, obviously, but with the chicken. I've always loved rotisserie chicken, but the Peruvian version is a thousand times more flavorful. I even make a bastardized version myself on the grill, using boneless thighs. It's good (good enough that I usually pick leftovers out of my salad mid-morning because I can't bring myself to wait for lunch), but a totally different animal. So when I saw that America's Test Kitchen featured a recipe for Peruvian chicken, I had to try it out stat. Since not everyone has a rotisserie, they used a vertical roasting technique. In my case, that meant a beer can on Kenny's grill (mine's not big enough for that kind of operation). Test Kitchen also gave a recipe for spicy mayonnaise, which was good but not as flavorful as I wanted it to be. Still, the technique was sound - sound enough that I used it at my parents' house last weekend when I was making egg salad and found that there was no mayonnaise in the house.

This chicken was good. Really good. But not perfect. Next time I'd double the garlic and lime (and even the hot pepper, maybe), and cut the mint in half. It was a little overpowering. The other minor issue: whole chickens take a long time to roast, even on a grill that gets above 500 degrees. By the time it was finished, I was too sleepy to take more than a few bites, and this was definitely better fresh than as leftovers.

Oh yeah, we didn't just eat chicken. I used some tilapia I had laying around from the South Pacific Adventure to make ceviche (Kenny said good, but the lime flavor was too strong; I was too tired to eat any) and a quinoa salad with grilled asparagus and fresh mozzarella (also good, even as leftovers).

Warm Quinoa Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Fresh Cheese

2 1/3 cups quinoa (about 15 oz.)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 fresh ajies amarillos (Peruvian yellow hot chiles) or jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 (12 oz.) jar Peruvian black olives or Kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 pound queso blanco or fresh mozzarella, diced (1/4 inch;2 cups)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or to taste
1 Tbsp. Peruvian panca chile powder or 2 tsp. hot smoked paprika (pimenton picante)

Cook Quinoa: Rinse quinoa in 5 changes of water in a bowl, rubbing grains and letting them settle each time before pouring off water (if quinoa does not settle, drain in a large fine mesh sieve after each rinse.).

Cook quinoa in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan of well salted boiling water 10 minutes. Drain in sieve and rinse under cold water.

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Heat oil in a 12 inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook garlic, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir into quinoa and season with salt.

GRILL VEGETABLES AND MAKE SALAD: Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium heat for gas).

Brush asparagus with oil. Grill, in batches if necessary, turning occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer as cooked to a cutting board. Cut asparagus diagonally into 2 inch lengths, reserving tips for garnish. Add to quinoa with remaining ingredients, including 2 Tbsp. oil. Toss and season with salt. Sprinkle with asparagus tips.


2 lbs tilapia fillets or 2 lbs other firm white fish fillets, cubed
8 -10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 habanero pepper, seeded and chopped (or real Peruvian Aji Amarillo, if you can find it)
8 -12 limes, freshly squeezed and strained to remove pulp, enough to cover fish
1 red onion, thinly sliced and rinsed

Combine all ingredients except red onion and mix well.
2 Place red onion on top and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving.
3 Before serving, mix well and serve with lettuce, corn, avocado or other cold salad vegetables on the side.
Peruvian Chicken with Garlic and Lime

3 tbsp EVOO
1/4 lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp kosher salt
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp finely grated zest and 1/4 cup juice (from 2 limes)
1 tsp minced habanero chile
1 3 1/2- 4 lb whole chicken

Process all ingredients except chicken in a food processor until a smooth paste forms, 10-20 seconds. Carefully loosen chicken skin on thighs and breast and remove any excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin of chicken. Spread entire exterior surface with remaining paste. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken. Place chicken in a gallon size zip lock bag and refrigerate 6-24 hours. 

Heat grill. Drink half a can of beer, then place chicken on beer can, put it on the grill, cover, and get the grill as hot as possible until chicken is done.* Let rest 15 minutes or so and carve and eat.

*note: Test kitchen says to use the oven. Preheat to 325 and cook chicken 45-55 minutes, until internal temp is 140. Then raise the temperature to 500, place 1 cup of water at the bottom of the roasting pan, and cook about 20 minutes until the thickest part of the breast registers 160. Our chicken came out perfectly cooked.

Spicy Mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp minced onion
1 tbsp juice from 1 lime
1 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1 tbsp canned pickled jalapeno, minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced (1 tsp)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup vegetable oil

Process all ingredients except oil in a food processor until finely chopped, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly drizzle oil in a steady stream until mayonnaise-like consistency is reached, scraping down bowl if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. Try this one:

    Todd Kliman's "EPR homage" pollo a la brasa

    What you'll need:
    1 whole chicken, cut into parts
    2 Tbsp huacatay (a Peruvian black-mint paste)*
    1 tsp aji (a Peruvian yellow-pepper paste)
    3 limes, juiced
    3 garlic cloves, grated
    1 1/2 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp paprika
    2 tsp ground annatto
    1 Tbsp sugar
    1 tsp kosher salt
    1 tsp cracked black pepper
    1 tsp dried Mexican oregano

    How to make it:
    1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a bowl.

    2. Rub the chicken with marinade and let it sit, covered, in the fridge for 24 hours.

    3. Grill white meat pieces over very low heat for 45 minutes, and dark meat for an hour.

    EPR-style dipping sauces:
    1. Spicy mayo-mustard Mix a cup of good mayo with a half cup of French's mustard. Mix in a tablespoon of aji, a good squeeze of lime juice, a teaspoon of ground annatto, and salt and pepper to taste.

    2. Fiery greenpepper sauce In a food processor, pulse six jalapeno peppers (to ease the heat, cut out the white interior "ribs") and the juice of one lime. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    * Pick up this and other ingredients for the recipe at