Peruvian Chicken

Adapted from Where There’s Smoke

We make a lot of chicken here, but I’m always looking for a new recipe. This could very well be my new go-to summer chicken recipe. It’s fast and simple and the results are outstanding.

  • Juice of 2 limes, plus lime wedges for serving
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (see tips)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (see tips)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika (pimenton de le vera)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (see tips)
  • 2 bone-in, skin on split chicken breasts
  • A generous handful of applewood chips
  • In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar, salt and sugar. Stir until dissolved. In a small saucepan, combine the olive oil, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Warm over medium heat until the spices are fragrant and the olive oil is producing tiny bubbles, about 3-4 minutes. Add the spice mixture to the lime juice mixture and allow to cool. Place the cooled spice mixture in a ziptop plastic bag, then add the chicken breasts. Press all the air out of the bag carefully, then seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight (I did overnight). Before grilling, remove the bag from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour.
  • This recipe was originally written to be grilled over live fire. Since I have a gas grill (and will admit to being just a little afraid of live fire, especially in my own backyard), I adapted the recipe as such. See tips below if you are braver than I and know how to build your own fire. If you are using a gas grill, you will create a smoke station using the applewood chips and aluminum foil. Place the wood chips in the foil and curl up the edges slightly. Heat them slowly over medium low direct heat. Keep the grill closed. The wood chips will begin to smolder and give off a smoky aroma. Now you’re ready to grill.
  • Place the chicken breasts skin side down. After 2-3 minutes, turn them over and allow them to cook skin side up until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F when inserted into the thickest portion of the breast. Remove from the grill and allow to rest 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot with lime wedges on the side.
  • Quick Tips
  • 1. Barton’s recipe called for white wine vinegar but I only had about 3 drops left, so I went with the next closest thing. Since acid is the key to this recipe, I figured it wouldn’t impact the flavor too much as long as it was in the right direction.
  • 2. You can use regular old granulated sugar. I happened to have the brown sugar in the raw (turbinado) on hand so this is what I used.
  • 3. As you’re beginning to see, this recipe was all about what I had on hand. Barton’s recipe called for 2 teaspoons powdered chile pepper such as Espelette or the Chilean merquen. I had neither, so I used cayenne and reduced the amount by half.
  • 4. Brave souls who know how to grill “for real” – Barton says to build a medium fire (i.e. you can hold your hand comfortably above the coals for no more than 2 to 3 seconds of direct exposure before you have to pull it away), then add chunks of flavorful wood. I used apple wood. When the wood has burned to embers, place the chicken skin side down directly over the coals. Cook for 2 minutes, then rotate the grill grate so the chicken is away from the fire. Cover the grill and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F when inserted in the thickest part of the breast, about 20 minutes.

Preparation time: 15 minutes plus overnight marinating

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

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