It just so happens that while standing in line at the grocery store last week, I spotted the Gourmet Grilling issue. Drawn in by it's mouth-watering "this burger will change your life" cover shot, I reached for the glossy mag, altogether ignoring People, Star and Us. In what I can only imagine must have been a karmatic twist of fate, I opened the magazine to Peruvian Grilled Chicken, or Pollo a la Brasa, the very country I was planning to cook in, but had no recipe for. Aside from the gorgeous photographs, I fell in love with the recipe for it's simplicity and the combination of clean flavors in the marinade. Wait...is it socially acceptable to lust after a recipe? Who cares; that's how I feel, and I'll live in secrecy no more.
Located in western South America, Peru is bordered by Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and the Pacific Ocean. A multi-ethenic country of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians, Peru is also home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, the Notre Chico as well as the Inca Empire. Spanish, Quechua and other languages are spoken in Peru. As diverse as the population is, Peru's geography is unique as well, encompassing the plains on the Pacific coast, peaks of the Andes and the tropical Amazon forest. Peru gained independence from the Spanish empire in 1821, but continues to struggle with on-going political and fiscal instability today.
Cuisine in Peru is influenced by the many travelers and settlers who have traversed the country from Spain, China, Italy, West Africa and Japan. The country's primary staple foods are corn, potatoes and beans. Quinoa, kiwicha, chili peppers, tubers and rice as well as chicken and fish round out the basics. Interestingly, Peru has one of the most prolific and genetically diverse variety of crops, including, but not limited to 35 varieties of maize, 15 species of tomatoes, 200 types of potatoes and 150 varieties of sweet potatoes.
Peruvian Grilled Chicken (Adapted from Gourmet)
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
5 garlic cloves
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. fresh oregano
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 whole chicken, quartered or cut up
Lime wedges for garnish
Blend soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumiin, paprika, oregano, 1/2 tsp. pepper and oil in a blender.
Put chicken in a large ziplock bag and add marinade. Seal bag and turn to coat. Marinate, chilled 8-24 hours.
Prepare grill for indirect-heat, cooking over medium-hot coals (medium-high heat for gas).
Discard marinade, oil rack and grill chicken over area with no coals (or over turned off burner), skin side down first, covered, turning over once, until cooked through - about 15-18 minutes on each side.**
Add more charcoal if necessary to maintain heat.
**I did not follow this exactly - I simply let the coals burn down, and then -cooked, turning frequently to avoid burning.
Serve with potato salad and green salad. And, if it's an accompanying beverage you crave, beer is good, but a Lychee-Pomegranate Margarita is better :)
Final Assessment: Deluxe! This dish has earned itself regular rotation on my summer grilling menu. Garlic, lime, cumin, paprika and oregano make for a wonderfully aromatic and flavorful marinade, and if you have the patience to let the chicken marinate overnight, it'll fall off the bone with each bite.
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