Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro Sauce is an easy weeknight meal. Fresh garlic and other spices make a flavorful rub that brings a new taste to roast chicken. It is good hot or cold and is perfect for picnics.
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Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro Sauce
Peruvian Chicken roasts quickly because we spatchcock the bird. Spatchcock is a fancy term for cutting the backbone out so that the chicken lies flat in the pan. Because all of the skin is exposed to the heat of the oven or grill, it all becomes crisp and delicious. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, but it is very easily done at home with a sharp knife or poultry shears.
Peruvian Chicken would also be delicious cooked on the grill or in a smoker. If using a smoker, I recommend a few pieces of pecan wood. Not too much, as poultry tends to absorb smoke easily.
What does “spatchcock” actually mean?
Spatchcock is a contraction of an old term “dispatch the cock” because it is the quickest way to roast a chicken. It is sometimes referred to as butterflied chicken. This is a slang term for the same technique.
So, how do I spatchcock the chicken?
Place the chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board with the legs pointing toward you. With a sharp knife or poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone. Remove the backbone and open the chicken like a book. Turn breast-side-up and proceed with recipe.
(The backbone can be frozen for later use to make stock.)
Can I spatchcock other poultry?
Absolutely. In fact, last Thanksgiving, to avoid the dreaded “everyone is hungry but the turkey isn’t ready” scenario from the year before, I spatchcocked the turkey so it would cook faster. More about that in November.
Do I have to use fresh jalapeno in the cilantro sauce?
No. I only had the sliced jalapenos in a jar. I put in several, and found it was too hot, so I suggest starting with one and then adjusting to taste. The heat of a jalapeno is in the seeds and membranes so if you don’t like it too spicy, scrape out the seeds before using. I suggest wearing disposable gloves when handling spicy peppers; if you rub your eyes while prepping them it is very painful.
What is the best way to zest a lemon?
When you are zesting a fruit, you need to make sure you are getting the colored part of the rind only. The white part, known as the pith, is bitter. One way to do this is to use a vegetable peeler to get long strips of the peel then chop them fine. This is not the best way, as you will end up with peels with a lot of white pith. What you really need is a microplane zester. This small gadget was discovered by a cook who saw her husband using a planer in his wood shop and decided to see how it would do in the kitchen. It is now available in any kitchen supply shop or online. It is the easiest and fastest way to get the zest and well worth the money and drawer space. (I love all of my kitchen gadgets but this one changed zesting from a dreaded chore to a quick step in a recipe). The fresh zest gives incredible flavor to food. Also, you want to get the zest from the whole fruit. If you slice it first, you will have a mess on your hands (and probably on your floor, too).
How should I handle raw ingredients?
Until recently, it was recommended to wash poultry before cooking. The newest guidelines recommend skipping this step as it was found that the water spread the raw germs around your kitchen. Whenever you are handling raw animal products such as meat or eggs, be sure to wash the cutting board and all the utensils used in hot soapy water. Every time you touch the raw ingredients, wash your hands well and dry them before touching anything else that people will eat. If you carry the raw meat or eggs to the grill or oven on a plate, do not put your cooked food back on the same plate without washing it first. The raw juices on the plate will contaminate it.
Products used in making this recipe:
Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater
Peruvian Chicken with Cilantro Sauce
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 1/2 tsps kosher salt divided
- 2 lemons
- 1 whole chicken 4-5 lbs.
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. lime juice
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Preheat oven or grill to 400 degrees.
Mix chopped garlic, cumin, oil, paprika, pepper, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt.
Peel the zest from one of the lemons. Add to garlic mixture.
Slice zested lemon into four equal pieces. Squeeze juice from two of the quarters and remaining whole lemon. Add 2 tbsp. juice into garlic mixture. Stir to combine.
Place the chicken breast side down on counter or work surface with legs pointing towards you. Cut along both sides of the backbone and remove it. Save for stock if desired. Open chicken like a book and turn breast-side up. Dry chicken with paper towels.
Using the remaining two lemon quarters, rub chicken all over. Squeeze the juice onto the chicken, then rub it with the lemon rinds.
At this point, you can loosen the skin to insert part of the spice mixture underneath. Do this carefully so the skin does not tear. Or just spread part of the mixture all over the bird. Top with remaining 1 tsp. salt.
Put chicken into a roasting pan, skin-side up. Roast chicken for 20 minutes, then baste it with the pan juices and some of the spice mixture. Continue to baste every 20 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thigh meat registers 165 degrees. This should take 50-60 minutes.
When chicken is fully cooked, remove it to a cutting board and let it rest 15 minutes before carving.
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until well-combined. Transfer to a bowl and chill, covered, until your serving time.