This Peruvian roast chicken borrows its Latin American accent from a marinade of paprika, cumin, lemon, and garlic, creating an amazing Technicolor Dream Coat color and has a really quite spectacular taste.
Burnished-skinned, deeply flavored, and more than just a little spicy, it’s no wonder that Peruvian chicken has become something of an obsession here in the United States. There are dozens of ways to make this dish, but most recipes call for two different kinds of Peruvian chile pastes — aji amarilla and aji panca — to add the necessary complexity and heat. You can find them at South American markets and online. But in a pinch, you can substitute a red chile paste (like sriracha or sambal) for the aji amarillo, and ground pasilla chile powder for the aji panca. The flavors won’t be traditional, but the chicken will still be tasty — especially when slathered with the irresistibly creamy, spicy cilantro sauce that goes alongside.
An enameled cast-iron dish or a heavy frying pan is a good choice for this bird so that after it’s cooked, the sauce can be made in the same pan. If you like, you can soak the red onion for the salad in an iced water bath for 10 minutes, then drain and pat dry before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. This takes away most of the bite.
For the Peruvian roast chicken-
5 garlic cloves finely chopped
Fine sea salt
One (4-pound) chicken
1/2 lemon cut into 2 wedges
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons paprika*
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
3 to 4 jalapeños, seeded and diced
¼ cup/1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ tablespoons lime juice, more to taste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or basil
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon aji amarillo or other chile paste
½ teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Lime wedges, for garnish
For the salad (optional)-
1/2 to 3/4 of a small red onion very thinly sliced and soaked in ice water for 10 minutes to lessen its bite
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves or to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 large lime)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Make the Peruvian roast chicken
Using the flat side of a knife blade, mash the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together into a paste.
Rinse and pat the chicken dry, inside and out, and put the chicken on a plate. Rub the chicken all over with the lemon quarters.
Slip your fingers underneath the skin to loosen it. Slide the garlic paste between the skin and chicken, being careful not to tear the skin. Then smooth the skin to evenly distribute the paste.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of wine, the oil, paprika, cumin, black pepper, and oregano.
Place the chicken in a baking dish and slather it with the marinade. Turn the bird several times to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 5 to 8 hours, turning the chicken once or twice.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
Move the chicken to a small roasting pan or 12- to 14-inch cast-iron skillet. Don't toss out the marinade.
Squeeze the lemon quarters into the cavity of the hen and then toss them in. If desired, tie the legs together with kitchen string. Season the chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt.
Roast the bird for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375ºF (190°C). Dump the marinade over the bird and roast, basting occasionally with the pan juices, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 165ºF (74°C), about 75 minutes more.
Make the salad-
Halve each avocado and dice. Toss the avocados with everything else in a bowl.
Getting the food on the table
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes.
Skim the fat floating on the juices in the roasting pan. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Add the remaining 1/4 cup wine and simmer, stirring and scraping the pan, for 3 minutes.
Carve the bird, toss the avocado salad again, and pass the pan sauce on the side. Graciously accept all applause, kudos, and marriage proposals.
*What are the different types of paprika? Paprika is a common ingredient in many cultures, especially Spanish and Hungarian, and there are many, many grades and types of paprika. Paprika in its simplest form is made from ground sweet pepper pods to create the iconic bright red powder. It’s been incorporated into nearly every food culture in the world, from garnishing to coloring to flavoring.
The main types of paprika are sweet, hot, and smoked. But wait–both hot and sweet can be smoked, although it’s usually the hot paprika that you’ll find smoked. This recipe leaves it up to you, so use what you think you’ll prefer because it will absolutely make a difference.