Pollo a la brasa (that’s grilled chicken) is a very popular Peruvian dish that’s made its way over to America but unfortunately, not here. I’ve read blog post after blog post about how that rotisserie chicken is freaking delicious and cheap and comes with a multitude of amazing sides and of course, the craving set in. It does seem ridiculous that I’d crave something I’d never tasted before but it’s roast chicken! There’s something quite universal about it, isn’t there?

I set out to make it at home. There are quite a few recipes for the marinade online and I based mine on a few that I found. I wanted to use fresh garlic rather than garlic powder and one recipe that used it suggested putting it under the skin of the chicken rather than mixing it with the marinade as the acid was likely to turn the garlic blue. Some suggested that the acid be lemon juice; others said vinegar. I just put together what sounded good.

Roast Peruvian-Style Chicken

Oh, and it was good! That marinade went right through the skin and the garlic definitely made itself known. Apart from the garlic, the other flavours melded together in a way that you couldn’t put a finger on each individual component; yes, the sum was greater than its parts. Finger licking good. Sure, it may have been more amazing if charcoal grilled but hey, I think my oven did a pretty good job of it.

Fried Ripe Plantains

We had it with a few sides; it’s never a proper roast dinner without all the fixin’s, eh? From what I understand, French fries/chips are normally served with pollo a la brasa but I wanted to go all out. We had fried plantains (slice and shallow fry in sunflower oil; sprinkle with salt), garlic rice (same as I make for Cuban rice), black beans (Molly’s recipe is my go-to recipe for quick beans), a chopped avocado and tomato salad, and a fresh green chilli sauce to brighten everything up. That rice was insanely good with the juices from the roast chicken poured on top. It all makes for a nice change from the usual roast potatoes and boiled veg.

A Peruvian-Style Roast Dinner

The chicken recipe was adapted from those at Leite’s Culinaria, Wandering Chopsticks and Sunday Nite Dinner. The green chilli sauce was adapted from a recipe at Peru Food.

Peruvian Roast Chicken

1 chicken, approximately 1.5kg

For the marinade:
5 cloves garlic
2 tbsps paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

Trim your chicken of any extra fat. Pat dry both inside and out. Use your finger to carefully separate the skin from the breast and thighs, creating “pockets”. Crush or mash the garlic cloves and distribute evenly between the “pockets”, spreading and smoothing the garlic from the outside.

Mix together the rest of the marinade ingredients and schmear it all on the inside and outside of your chicken. Leave in the fridge to marinade for a few hours or overnight. Take it out half an hour before you want to roast it.

Preheat the oven to 220C. Place your chicken breast side down on a roasting tray and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. When the time is up, turn your oven temperature down to 160C and flip your chicken so it’s now breast side up. Continue roasting for an hour or until the juices at the thigh run clear (or you can check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer).

Let your chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Green Chilli Sauce

Green Chilli Sauce

a small bunch of coriander
1-2 green chillies
1/2 clove garlic
a pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil

Wash your coriander and pick off the leaves. Discard the stems or use them elsewhere. Deseed the chillli if you wish (it makes it less hot). Toss the leaves, chillli, garlic and salt into a mini chopper or little blender or whatever it is you use and add about 2 tbsps olive oil. Blend, adding more olive oil if required.