There's a really great Peruvian restaurant in my hometown, Kalamazoo Michigan. My mom and I stumbled upon it one day, looking for a late lunch. Wanting something different than the standard small town, chain restaurant, fare, I spotted the small sign advertising El Inka in a strip mall across the parking lot. It was wonderful. Had I not been so engrossed by the meal, I would have snapped a few photos with my phone.
We started with Peruvian corn as an appetizer, something very similar to the corn nuts of my childhood, but much, much better. Mom had a soda (which she has since given up, yay!) and I had a chica morada, a slightly sweet drink made from purple corn that was described as the "lemonade" of Peru, or what one might have on a hot summer day to quench your thirst. It was interesting and surprisingly good. For our meal, mom went with the house specialty, pollo a la brasa, a roasted chicken with South American seasonings while I had a dish recommended by our server, aji de gallina, a spicy gravy with shredded chicken served with potatoes and rice. Everything was just delicious and it was a memorable meal.
My desire for an easy meal with some of these same flavors took me to the web in search for Peruvian recipes. While I didn’t fully recreate the taste and experience of El Inka, this meal has some of the same flavors and a sauce that is one of the best things I’ve made recently. Ryan and I decided the sauce was really the star of the plate and would be wonderful in many other dishes.
The chicken breast is marinated in a combination of citrus juice and spices and left to hang out in the refrigerator for a half hour. The sauce was a creation based on ingredients I had on hand. Roasting the jalapeno pepper really elevates the sauce. I always have plain greek yogurt on hand and use it in so many ways. It’s a great wet ingredient for baking, and is my substitution for sour cream in tacos and in this sauce. I love the tanginess of greek yogurt and will eat it with just a drizzle of honey for a really healthy breakfast. We have a gas burner in our kitchen so roasting the jalapeno pepper was pretty simple, using some heavy tongs, I simply held it over the flame until it was charred on all sides. I let it rest in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap for 10 minutes until the charred outer skin peeled right off. I was left with a smoky, slightly sweet, intense pepper flavor that works well in this sauce. Blended with the remaining ingredients, it was simple to put together. In the future I would double the sauce recipe so I had leftovers! If you don’t have a gas burner, you can roast the jalapeno pepper under a broiler, watching it carefully and turning it as it roasts.
The chicken is served with a cilantro lime rice and sauteed greens. We eat a lot of greens and my favorite preparation is simply sauteed in a little olive oil with garlic and finished with either lemon juice or soy sauce; in this case I opted for the saltiness of the soy to play off the cilantro lime rice.
While this recipe is certainly not pollo a la brasa, and doesn’t use aji peppers, it does remind me of the flavors of our Peruvian meal.
Chicken Marinade Ingredients
Marinade for two chicken breasts
- Zest of 1 lime
- Juice of 1 lime
- Tablespoon of cumin powder
- Teaspoon of chili powder
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Combine marinade ingredients in a shallow dish.
- Cover two medium sized chicken breasts with marinade and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roasted Jalapeno Sauce Ingredients
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 handful of fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon of cumin powder
- 1/4 of plain greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Roast jalapeno pepper over gas flame or under broiler until charred on all sides.
- Let rest in a small dish, covered with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.
- Peel and remove seeds.
- Add jalapeno and all remaining ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth
- Grill the marinated chicken until a meat thermometer reads at least 165 degrees. Rest meat for 5 minutes before slicing.
- Slice chicken and serve over cilantro lime rice with sauteed green vegetables.
- Drizzle sauce over chicken to finish.
Sharing our culinary adventures in Cascadia with simple, sustainable & satisfying eats. Bon Appétit!