Tuesday, March 20, 2012

PERUsing Bookclub

A couple of weeks ago we were in NYC eating at a restaurant on the way upper west side. I love a concierge who will tell you in no uncertain terms their personal favorite places. After all they are getting paid to steer you in the right direction and I don't always want to be sent to the tourist places. When I am in a city I like to see how the residents of the city live, what they see and where they eat. We were overjoyed to be sent to Pio Pio. There are three in Manhattan, but she preferred the one on Amsterdam. Since we have never been to the other two I can't vouch for her opinion that it was the best of the three, but I can tell you how incredibly delicious it was. I have only eaten Peruvian food at one other restaurant in my life. Andina in Portland is an upscale trendy place near The Pearl district. The food is some of the best I have ever put in my mouth and is worth however long you have to wait for a meal. You leave feeling comfortably full, your mouth is overjoyed and your wallet is considerably flatter. We were hoping for the happy mouth and full feeling with a little less economic destruction and we were not disappointed. They have a meal called the Matador for $36 which will feed 3 easily. We ordered it but Son3 thought he needed more so he got an entire whole roast chicken for himself. In a nutshell we ate and ate and ate and still had much food left over. The worst thing about being in a hotel is the lack of facilities required for rewarming the contents of a doggy bag. We wound up leaving so much food on the table because we could not eat another bite.
As I sat eating, I tried to figure out the delicious spice combination they used to season the roasted chicken, and I also tried to taste all the components in the green sauce they served along side it. I could pick out some but still didn't know how they worked that chicken magic. After many Google searches, I found I was not the only one looking for these recipes. It seems that virtually everyone who has eaten there wants to know how to make the sauce. Thanks to Grace Parsi of Food and Wine magazine I think I found it. It is not exact but it is dang close to the restaurant sauce.

Creamy Peruvian Chili Sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large jalapeƱos, seeded and quartered lengthwise
1 large serrano chile with seeds, quartered lengthwise
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 cup water
1/2 Hass avocado
2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the jalapeƱos, serrano, onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are tender and the water is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the avocado and puree again until it is smooth and creamy. Leave the blender running and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil. Blend until creamy. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.

I found this was a little too thick and added about a tablespoon more of the lime juice. There was also a slight smoky taste to the Pio sauce. I think next time I will grill at least one of the gaps to see if that will give a little smoke flavor to the sauce.

Serve as a dipping sauce for the chicken or slather it on top of the chicken or just eat it with a spoon. It really is that good!

Almost Pio Pio Chicken

I medium size whole fryer ( about 4 lbs.)

I quart water
juice of 2 lemons

4 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons white wine
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Combine vinegar, wine, oil with garlic powder, cumin, paprika, black pepper, and salt. Mix well to form a paste. Add lemon juice to cold water. Trim chicken of any excess or loose fat. Soak the chicken in the lemon water for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry . Place chicken in zip-top bag. Pour spice paste over chicken. Coat chicken completely with mixture rubbing onto every surface. Try to get the paste under the skin as much as possible.
Seal bag and place chicken in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. The chicken will have more flavor the longer it sits in the spice mixture. Do not refrigerate more than 24 hours.

Instead of a whole chicken I used boneless chicken breasts and put them on a medium grill for about 9 minutes. If cooking a whole bird either put it on a spit on the grill or oven roast it.

Preheat grill and prepare rotisserie. Place chicken on rotisserie and on the grill for approximately 1 1/2 hours at a temperature around 300 degrees F.Test chicken for doneness by measure in the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. Chicken is done at 165 degrees F. If oven roasting I would probably cook it at 350 for about 45 minutes.

I served this tonight to my book club and it seemed to be well received. I'm not saying I was paying attention or anything but I am pretty sure everyone had at least seconds of the chicken. It truly is probably the best tasting chicken I have ever cooked and will be in the regular chicken rotation from now on.

In keeping with the Peruvian meal theme I fixed a very simple quinoa salad

Quinoa Salad with Lime and Mint

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves or parsley
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons diced red onion- or use 2 chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
A handful of sweet and ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered

Rinse quinoa in a sieve (
Cook the quinoa as per package directions. (2 and 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups fresh salted water, covered, till all of the water is absorbed).

Put the cooked quinoa into a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, tossing lightly with a fork until combined.

Taste test and adjust seasonings.

Cover and chill. tastes best made the day before serving.

After dinner we had a treat. 2 odd members of the Odd Quad played some light jazz for our after dinner pleasure. Thank you Son3 and Friend. We enjoyed listening to you!

If you decide you want delicious Peruvian food my first suggestion is to eat at Pio Pio on the corner of 94th and Amsterdam Avenue. If that is not in the cards for the day, fire up the grill and give this a try. Unless your taste buds just don't work I am fairly certain you will like it.

And p.s to Peggy: Quinoa is a complex carbohydrate. Each portion contains carbohydrates plus 6 grams of complete protein. It seems that the grain has all nine of the amino acids required to make it a complete protein. Just saying'

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