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Peruvian Primer - Pollo A La Brasa

It’s the end of winter, thank goodness. And my wanderlust is in high gear. But if I can’t get away just yet (and I can’t). I’ll travel through my food. Today, it’s Peru, spurred by some of my favorite fellow travelers - my daughter lauren and her boyfriend, Tom.

Pollo A La Brasa is a very common dish in Peru, though I have to admit - I did not have any Aji Panca laying around - a paprika-like sauce that is native to Peru. I substituted espelette pepper. instead.

“Brasa” means embers, so chicken cooked in the embers. Grilling is best for this dish, but not necessary.

The Aji Verde is great with the chicken, but also not necessary.


1⁄3 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

5 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons cumin seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle. It’s so much better when ground fresh.

1 tablespoon paprika

1⁄2 tablespoon dried oregano

1⁄2 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon espelette pepper or a smoky paprika if you don;t want any heat

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 whole chicken, spatchcocked*

2 garlic heads


You can find spatchcocked chickens most places - I get mine from Wegman’s. But if you have good kitchen shears, it’s easy to remove the back and spread the chicken open. It cooks much more evenly this way.

Blend soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and oil in a blender.

Put chicken in a large sealable bag and add marinade. Seal bag and marinate, chilled, 8 to 24 hours. Turn occasionally to assure even marinating.

Prepare grill for medium-high heat.

Discard marinade, then oil the grill rack.

Cut the tops off of the garlic heads and place them in a Grill chicken over area with no coals (or over a turned-off burner), skin side down first, covered, turning over once, until cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes (add charcoal to maintain heat).

Garnish with lime wedges.

If you choose to oven-roast it: Preheat oven to 500°F, and roast chicken for 30 minutes in a large cast iron pan or 13x8 pan.

After 30 minutes of roasting time, tent with foil and continue roasting until browned and cooked through, or about 15 minutes longer.).

Aji Verde (Green Sauce)

2 cups cilantro

¼ cup mayo

¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese

1 large or 2 medium jalapeños seeds removed for less heat

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

¼ teaspoons Kosher salt

Throw all Aji Verde ingredients in a blender and blend well for a minute or so.

Drizzle some Aji Verde and garlic on the chicken and grab your National Geographic Explorer catalog.

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