The quest for the perfect roast chicken is an endless one for any home cook. Roasting the chicken itself is simple enough, but how does one perfectly achieve that crispy skin, that juicy meat, that sumptuous blend of spices that makes the recipe uniquely yours? Rotisserie chicken was always a classic in my house growing up, so when I began cooking at home I wanted to have a roast chicken recipe that friends and family would come knocking on my door for. After many tries, I think I’ve found my solution.
I’ve always tended to roast birds simply, seasoning them only with lemon, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper. Don’t get me wrong, this is a delicious method, but recently I’ve been craving something more. This recipe is a take on pollo a la brasa, a classic Peruvian dish that can be found all over the United States. The chicken is rubbed all over with copious amounts of a paprika-based paste, then marinated for as long as possible, but no longer than 24 hours. The ingredient list is lengthy, but the execution is easy: no basting, brining or covering required. I’m usually a champion of simple cooking, but let’s be honest…sometimes more is more.
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1 3-4 lb farm-raised chicken
4 tbsp white vinegar
3 tbsp white wine
3 tbsp canola oil
21/2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp paprika
11/2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lemons, halved
1. Combine the first eight ingredients. Mix well, forming a paste. Trim the chicken of any excess fat, wash well and pat dry. Make sure your chicken is completely dry before you add any marinade or paste, otherwise the skin will not crisp up the way it should. Place the chicken in a bowl.
2. Rub the spice paste over the chicken, covering every surface. Try to get the paste under the skin as much as you can so that the flavor infuses into the meat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no more than 24.
3. Preheat the oven to 425º and remove the chicken from the fridge. Wipe off any excess marinade and place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan. If your roasting pan doesn't have a rack, place your chicken on top of vegetables. Keeping the chicken off the bottom of the pan helps it roast evenly all the way through.
4. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and stuff with as much lemon, onion and garlic as you can fit. Truss the chicken to keep the cavity closed and to ensure that the chicken cooks evenly.
5. Roast for an hour or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 180º, or juices run clear when you insert a knife.