It's been a chaotic few months in the Power/Barnes household. We moved into a new-to-us house, went on vacation to the Florida Keys and then came back and threw ourselves into renovating the in-law suite for my parents. Eight weeks later, and with a much lighter wallet, we're finally done! Which means I can get back to the things I love: cooking and writing. That's not to say I haven't cooked anything in eight weeks - cooking is my biggest stress buster and there's no way I would've gotten through renovations without bustin' a little stress - I just didn't have the time to sit down at my computer and write about my creations. This past Sunday morning I awoke from the most delicious dream of rotisserie chicken. I hopped out of bed so suddenly my husband popped up saying, 'What's wrong? Is someone at the door or something?'. 'No honey...I need to see where I can get the best deal on a rotisserie for our grill.'. Poor man didn't even bat an eyelash, just replied, 'Oh, ok.'. With that, I made myself a mug of green tea and sat down to research my options. As luck would have it, our local Canadian Tire store had 30% off all rotisseries AND I had over $100 in 'Canadian Tire' money, a little something that no doubt has all non-Canadians scratching their heads quizzically but Canadian Tire and, in particular Canadian Tire money, is about as Canadian as it gets! After a quick shower and dressing, off to Canadian Tire I went and came home with my new rotisserie, uber excited to see it in action.
Rotisserie is a style of cooking where meat is skewered on a spit, or a long solid rod used to hold food in place, while it's being cooked over an open fire. The rotation of the spit cooks the meat evenly in it's own juices and allows easy access for continuous self-basting. This method of cooking dates back as far as man with fire goes. In Medieval times, the spit was the preferred method of cooking meat in a large household. In affluent households, a servant, preferably a boy, sat next to the spit turning it slowly for even cooking. He was known as the 'spit boy' or 'spit jack'. Eventually rotary spits were invented and these were intially powered by dogs on treadmills and then by steam power and mechanical clockwork mechanisms.
The word 'rotisserie' is French in origin where it first appeared in Paris shops around 1450. Rotisseries can be either horizontal, where the spit is mounted horizontally which is the preferred method for whole chickens or roasts, or vertical, where the heat is applied from the side or convected from below. Meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie is typically shaved off, a little at a time as needed, such as meat for donairs, gyros, shawarmas and taco al pastor in Mexico. All that being said, I had my new 'horizontal' rotisserie and I was anxious to use it. While considering what I would cook, a whole rotisserie world of options opened up to me: whole chicken, pork loin roast, prime rib, leg of lamb....whole chicken seemed like the safest bet for my inaugral rotisserie. Being true to form, I didn't want to do a regular ole rotisserie chicken...I wanted something 'momentous', something less predictable. As I researched options, Rotisserie Peruvian Chicken kept popping onto my radar. Rotisserie Peruvian Chicken, aka Super Chicken or El Polla Rico, is a rotisserie chicken that became hugely popular along the East coast of the U.S. a few years back. In fact, it is so popular that Peruian Rotisserie Chicken joints can be found pretty much all over the U.S. and parts of Canada. Rotisserie chicken is one of the most consumed foods in Peru, hence where Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken gets it's name.
The first step in making Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken is to wash the chicken very well in lemon water. It may seem a minor detail but trust me, the lemon water seeps right into the meat and enhances the overall flavour profile tremendously.
While the chicken was taking a relaxing lemon water bath, in a bowl I combined white vinegar, white wine, garlic powder, Spanish paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt and canola oil. As a side bar, you might be wondering what the difference is between Spanish paprika and regular paprika. Paprika is a powder made from grinding pods of various kinds of Capsicum annuum peppers. It's used for flavour and colour and it's the fourth most consumed spice in the world. Most paprika sold in local grocery stores is simply labeled 'paprika' and it usually originates from Hungary, California or South America, and it's sometimes mixed with other chiles like cayenne. This paprika tends to be neither sweet nor hot and therefore is used wherever you want some colour, such as with Deviled eggs. Spanish Paprika, on the other hand, is a very special thing. Spanish Paprika can range from 'dulce', (sweet and mild), to 'agridulce', (bitterwsweet and medium hot), to 'picante', (hot). To further compliate matters, some regions dry the chiles over wood fires, creating 'smoked' paprika, or pimenton de la Vera. Smoked paprika is often used in paella and dishes where you want a deep, woodsy flavour. As luck would have it, when we were in Montreal a few weeks ago visiting my cousin Michael, one of our 'tour' spots was an open market in the Italian district where I found some very special smoked Spanish paprika, which is why I used it here, but you can use whatever paprika you like....the chicken won't mind a bit!
After removing the chicken from it's luxurous lemon water bath, I patted it dry with some paper towel and then gently separated the skin covering the breast meat with my fingers. I spooned in a couple of spoonfuls of the spice mxiture and massaged it into the meat. I then placed the chicken into a large zipper lock baggie, poured in the rest of the spice mixture, sealed the bag and massaged the spice mixture into every little nook and cranny I could find on the chicken. I then placed the baggie of chicken on a baking sheet and placed it in the refrigerator to marinate for a couple of hours.
After 2 hours, I removed the chicken from the refrigerator, placed them on a baking sheet and trussed each one by tying butcher's twine from the neck, around to the front under the breasts pulling the string tight to plump up the breasts, tied a knot and then wrapped the string around the end of the legs, pulled tight and knotted, cutting off any excess string. After letting the chicken rest for an hour to come up to room temperature, I preheated my grill to medium high, (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit), skewered the chicken and placed the spit onto the rotisserie on my grill. I turned off the burners directly under the chicken, because I wanted them to roast, not burn, and left the burners on either side on high heat. This is called cooking over 'indirect' heat. I placed two foil pans under the chicken to catch the drippings, lowered the lid and let the rotisserie do it's thing! Within 15 minutes, our backyard was engulfed in the most amazing aroma! The scent of garlic, cumin, Spanish Paprika and roasting chicken wafted through the air making mouths everywhere water!
As good as Rotisserie Peruvian Chicken is, it still needed a side dish or two. It was a beautiful sunny day outside and I really didn't want to spend one moment of it inside so I decided to make Rotisserie Pan Potatoes and Grilled Corn on the Cob for my sides. For the Rotisserie Pan Potatoes, I simply peeled 2 lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes and sliced them into 1/2 inch thick slices. I tossed the sliced potatoes with a little salt and pepper and a sprinkling of olive oil, covered the bowl with some plastic wrap , and cooked them in the microwave for about 5 minuts on high power. I wanted the potatoes to soften up, but not become mush. When there was about 45 minutes left on my timer for the Peruvian Rotisserie Chicke, I placed the potato slices into the aluminum 'drip' pans, and gave them a toss with the juices from the chicken. I shuffled the potatoe slices around about every 15 minutes just so they would be evenly browned, (a process that was ever so slightly complicated by a lovely afternoon refreshing beverage of 2 parts vodka to 6 parts tangerine lemonade). But I digress.....
All that was left to do was grill the corn on the cob. I had bought the corn, or rather my dad did, already shucked so I decided, 'No fuss, right on the grill', was how I was going to go. The corn would take about 10 to 12 minutes to cook this way, and timing wise, it couldn't have worked out better. I sprayed each ear of corn with some olive oil cooking spray, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and placed them on the grill. When dark spots began to appear and the kernels deepened in colour. I gave them a quarter turn. Each side took about 2-3 minutes, and the corn was all ready withint 12 minutes.
Just look at that chicken! Doesn't it look scrumptious!
Oh ya, baby....you spin me right round, baby, right round! (Sorry...but that's precisely what was going through my head throughout the entire cooking process).
I placed the corn in the aluminum pans wth the potatoes and placed them in the oven on very low heat just to keep warm while I carved the chicken. They looked and smelled soooo good, I almost felt bad about carving them up into slices! IAlmost being the operative word there).
After carving, I quickly whisked up a little dipping sauce for the chicken by combining 1/2 c. mayo with 2 Tbsp mustard and 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice. Unfortunately, by that time, I was so anxious to eat this magnificent meal, I forgot to take a picture of the dipping sauce!
The aroma from the chicken was simply intoxicating and the flavour was spectacular - not too heavily spiced to offend anyone, mild enough to please everyone! The corn was incredibly juicy and sweet and the potatoes were the pefect blend of Peruvian flavour and carmelization. Despite the entire meal having been cooked outside, the house was filled with the most heavenly scent.