Celebrating pollo a la brasa / rotisserie-style chicken

This weekend marks the commemoration of Peruvian Independence (Fiestas Patrias), and as such it’d only be fitting to touch on a much celebrated national patrimony – the cuisine. 

Pollo a la Brasa at Limón Rotisserie, San Francisco.
Pollo a la Brasa at Limón Rotisserie, San Francisco.

One of my fondest memories while growing up in Lima, included picking up a baguette fresh out of the oven from a nearby French bakery, then walking down to my local pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) hole in the wall. I would ask for an inca kola and my usual quarter or half chicken with French fries and ají verde before heading out to the park right around the corner from my house. 

For as long as I can remember, Lima has been dotted by small shops and restaurants offering some of the most complex yet simple street and comfort food items. In recent years the “City of Kings” has ammased increasing popularity and even going as far as been coined the gastronomical destination of Latin America. And while chefs are experimenting beyond our customary repertoire of ingredients and techniques, much homage is paid to classic and street-side dishes ranging from ceviche, empanadas, butifarras, anticuchos, pollo a la brasa, to many others

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One could literally spend entire days savoring the best culinary treats that each neighborhood brings to the table. When it comes to true diversity, over centuries, Limeño food has carefully emulsified flavor profiles from Asian, African, European, Coastal and Andean cuisines, with Amazonian influences steadily asserting more presence. And of all the Peruvian delicacies I can think of, pollo a la brasa comes pretty high on my list as far as tradition and true fusion is concerned; indeed it’s so popular it even has its own celebratory day come every third Sunday of July.

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For over a decade, my brother Hugo and I have been visiting Naramata Bench in the Okanagan Valley, which is about a 5 hour drive east of our hometown of Vancouver. 

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On a previous family trip to Naramata, we found a spacious home for rent right in the heart of the wine country, surrounded by fruit groves, and vines overlooking the glistening Okanagan lake.  

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One evening during our stay, I grilled an entire pollo a la brasa for my family to reminisce on past times. You can also brine the entire chicken overnight before grilling, roasting or placing it in a rotisserie the following day. 

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The brine

  • 2 lemons, minus the juice
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • ½ cup of fine salt (to dissolve more easily than coarse salt)
  • A few fresh ginger slices (optional)

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The marinade

Let the marinade sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours. This recipe is for a whole 5-6 lbs chicken:

  • 2 cups of low sodium soy sauce. No salt necessary given the soy sauce. 
  • 2 cups of lemon juice 
  • 4 tablespoons of green or black cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons of home-made garlic paste or powder
  • 2 tablespoons of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of home-made ginger paste or powder (optional)
  • ½ cup of dry oregano leaves are preferred, but fresh leaves can work as well

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Simply stir all your ingredients in a bowl before covering your chicken with the mix; however, before pouring the liquid in, make sure to taste it to gauge its saltiness. As I brined it the night before with some salt, I was careful about adding additional salt as the soy sauce should take care of the sodium level. 

Since I didn’t have a rotisserie cooker with me, I grilled the chicken outside in the BBQ, which took just over an hour until perfectly done. 

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While you can marinade a whole chicken, I’ve also used this mix to grill chicken breasts as was the case during a recent excursion to Stinson beach. I made the marinade earlier in the day and placed the breasts in a large ziploc bag so they absorbed the flavors on the way to the shore. 

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I have tried a myriad of variations on pollo a brasa (including some with ginger), but as with all recipes feel free to adjust to your own liking.  

If you find yourself in San Francisco, try not to miss out on Limón Rotisserie. They offer a limited selection of dishes and traditional drinks, and while all the items on the menu are pretty consistent, their rotisserie chicken is unrivaled in the city. 

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High stakes also in…

Chimpún, Callao!

: Jaime

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