Like any lover of food, few things please me as profoundly as a perfect roast chicken. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a universally satisfying thing. Now it’s not a competition, but wherever I go I have to check out the local roast chicken scene and make sure it’s all good. I’ve never been to Peru, but it’s come to me in the form of pollo a la brasa, or the greatest chicken known to man.
It’s not roasted in the traditional sense of “hanging out in the oven,” but rather marinated in garlic, lime juice, cumin and paprika and cooked in charcoal. The charcoal imparts a distinctly earthy rather than smoky flavor you get from traditional grilling, and creates a super-crisp skin you couldn’t hope to achieve in your kitchen.
Not only is pollo a la brasa one of the most consumed dishes in Peru, it’s one of the most consumed dishes in any New York neighborhood with a Peruvian chicken joint. It’s impossibly economical, too. I’ve never paid more than $10 for a whole chicken that breaks down nicely into dinner, chicken salad and “fridge-purging pasta surprise,” with enough left over for tacos. That’s where it’s at.
The second best part of Peruvian chicken is that which accompanies it. Enjoy your fried plantains, yellow rice and beans and avocado salad with your slightly spicy, perfectly crispy, totally not French chicken. Save the lemon and rosemary for next time.