Peruvian pollo a la brasa is a whole chicken that is marinated, then cooked slowly on a rotisserie until the meat is ultra-tender; fried potatoes are a common accompaniment. Here, chicken leg quarters are used and roasted directly on top of sliced Yukon Golds that have first been lightly browned in the skillet on the stovetop.
We have both fallen hard in love with this recipe, and even though I don’t show a photo with the aji verde sauce on my plate, (I dove right into the meal before adding the sauce), it’s a wonderful condiment that enhances the meal enormously!
Marinate the chicken for 24 hours, if you can; if that’s not an option, give it at least an hour to soak in the seasonings. Ají panca paste is made from a Peruvian variety of chili of the same name; the paste is red with fruity, lightly smoky undertones and little heat. Look for it, sold in jars, in well-stocked supermarkets or Latin American grocery stores. If you cannot find it, don’t hesitate to use the sweet paprika plus smoked paprika substitute.
Beer is a common marinade ingredient for pollo a la brasa; Cusqueña, a Peruvian lager, is a good choice, but any quaffable variety will do. We highly recommend serving the chicken and potatoes with ají verde (recipe below), a Peruvian goes-with-everything condiment that’s deliciously creamy, tangy, herbal and spicy.
TIP: Don’t forget to pat the chicken dry after removing it from the marinade, and before sprinkling it with salt and placing the pieces in the skillet. The drier the skin, the better the browning and crisping.
We could not bear to eliminate the flavorful marinade altogether, yet we wanted the skin to be very crispy. So we wiped off the marinade from the chicken into the baking dish and patted them dry. The leftover marinade was then spread over the hot potato slices, and then the chicken pieces placed on top before going into the hot oven.
Not a fan of poultry legs, we used 8 bone-in chicken thighs, which required a larger oven-safe skillet. They went into the baking dish skin-side down, but we ladled the marinate onto the undersides to make sure all parts of the chicken got some flavoring going on. After 30 minutes, we turned the thighs to skin side up and brushed with more marinade.
Skillet-Roasted Peruvian-Style Chicken
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 cup beer
- 4 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. ají panca paste OR 1 Tbsp. sweet paprika, plus 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken leg quarters, OR 6-8 chicken thighs (about 3 lbs.), trimmed
- 1 1/2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced into ½-inch rounds
- 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
- Ají verde, to serve (optional, see recipe below)
- In a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish, stir together 2 tablespoons oil, the beer, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, ají panca, oregano, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours, turning the chicken once about halfway through marinating.
- Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the lowest position. Remove the chicken from the marinade; discard the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season lightly with salt.
- In a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the potatoes in an even layer and cook, uncovered and without stirring, until lightly browned at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the chicken skin side up on top of the potatoes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the chicken is deeply browned and the thickest part of the leg quarters reach 175°F, about 45 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven (the handle will be hot). Let rest for about 10 minutes, then transfer the chicken and potatoes to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve with ají verde (if using).
Aji Verde Sauce
Ají verde is a popular Peruvian condiment. Creamy and spicy, with fruity acidity from lime juice, it’s the perfect accompaniment to pollo a la brasa. Ají amarillo is a spicy yellow Peruvian chili. Look for ají amarillo paste in Latin American markets, but if not available, simply omit it. The sauce still will taste great.
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, coarsely chopped
- 1 garlic clove. minced
- 2 Tbsp. grated cotija cheese
- 3 Tbsp. fresh minced cilantro
- 1 Tbsp. jarred huacatay paste
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender or small food processor until smooth, about 1 minute.
Recipes by Courtney Hill & Elizabeth Mindreau for Milk Street