Peruvian-Style Roast Chicken
A few weeks back on Facebook, I asked people to share their favorite family dishes – authentic, traditional food they love to eat at home. As you know, I love to take old world flavors and traditions and reinvent them in ways that we can use in our every day cooking. One dish that came up was aji de gallina, a typical Peruvian dish. Chicken is cooked and topped with a rich creamy sauce that includes walnuts, garlic, breadcrumbs, and parmesan and is spiced with the yellow aji amarillo pepper. The sauce is incredibly addictive and the aji lends such distinctive flavor and just the right amount of heat.
I had a craving the other night for roast chicken, which I think is the ULTIMATE in winter, comfort food. Roast chicken is also a complete blank canvas, and, like everyone else, I’m constantly searching for ways to take it to the next level. When I looked at the components of the Peruvian sauce, the ingredients called to mind a tasty stuffing, so I decided to convert aji de gallina into a roast chicken spiced with aji amarillo and filled with a beautiful, nutty, cheesy stuffing.
If you can get past the whole trussing part, roast chicken is extraordinarily easy and satisfying to make. This recipe creates a gorgeous result – golden brown, tender and juicy, and snap-crispy skin. The aji and cumin butter rub is what gives the skin that great texture. The stuffing – bacon, onion, garlic, spices, walnuts, parm – creates the moisture inside the chicken. I always make a little more stuffing than what fits in the bird and throw it into some ramekins because stuffing always goes quickly! Enjoy!
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice
1 medium onion, diced
1 ½ tsps ground aji amarillo
½ tsp ground cumin
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup white wine
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup heavy cream
5 slices white Pullman bread, cubed
½ cup raw walnut halves, toasted and crushed
1/3 cup ground parmesan
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ tsps ground aji amarillo
½ tsp ground cumin
1 4 – 5 lb roasting chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Before I start, there are a few keys to a crispy, succulent roast chicken. First, the chicken must be completely dry. After removing the covering and rinsing and drying the inside of the chicken, I like to place it, uncovered, on a rack on a baking sheet on a low shelf in the fridge (not touching anything!). I leave it there for a couple of hours or even up to a day. The air circulates and dries out the chicken from all sides. Second, the chicken has to be at room temperature before putting it in the oven. Take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you plan to cook. The next things are a hot starting temperature and lots of salt! Which we’ll get to…
Preheat the oven to 475° F.
For the stuffing, in a medium skillet on medium heat, add the diced bacon. Cook for a few minutes until browned and crispy, remove using a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, and set aside. Add the diced onion, aji, and cumin back into the pan with the bacon fat (should be enough but add a little oil or butter if not). Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are translucent, add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the white wine and let reduce, stirring, until it’s almost all evaporated. Add in the chicken stock and cream and reduce the heat, simmering for another 2 to 3 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and let mixture cool.
In a large bowl, add the bread cubes, crushed walnuts, parmesan, egg, bacon and onion mixture. Stir to evenly distribute. (Don’t do this until you are ready to stuff the chicken, so the stuffing doesn’t get soggy.)
For the chicken, combine softened butter with aji and cumin. Massage butter all over the outside and inside of the bird. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stuff with the stuffing.
At this point, you want to truss the bird for even cooking. Here’s a great video (http://ruhlman.com/2010/07/how-to-truss-a-chicken.html) .
Place the stuffed, trussed chicken on a rack in a roasting pan, breast-side up, and into the oven. Cook for 25 minutes and reduce the heat to 375° F. Cook for another 45 minutes or so. The safe internal temperature of cooked chicken is 165° F. I check the temperature with a thermometer inserted into the thigh joint and actually take mine out of the oven around 155° F. I then rest it on a cutting board for 15 minutes to finish cooking.
Slice (the juices should run clear) and serve!
*For this dish I create more stuffing than I can fit in the bird because I don’t think what can fit inside is enough for a side dish! I like to take the leftover stuffing and throw it into buttered ramekins or a small, greased baking dish. For the last 25 minutes of cooking, I throw the excess stuffing into the oven and let it get browned and crispy.