“The number one problem people have with pollo a la brasa is that they don’t marinate the chicken for long enough,” explains Carta Brava owner Brian Morgado, busy in the kitchen prepping chicken for the rotisserie, fresh from a two-week trip to Peru.
Carta Brava’s chicken is prepped over a four-day period. That’s right, four days: two days in a bay leaf brine, and two days in a secret marinade, which includes beer, cumin, and red wine vinegar — all to pack a tender, juicy, and flavorful punch. Morgado also places a bay leaf in the carcass for more aromatics as it turns in 165-degree°F heat for about 90 minutes.
Sometimes, smoke chips are used to add just a little more flavor. “It really does make it go a long way,” Morgado says.
After marinating for two days in a secret recipe, the chicken is ready for the rotisserie oven.
According to Morgado, pollo a la brasa started some time in the 1970s in the seaside city of Callao, Peru, where his family is from. Initially, chicken was usually fried, and rotisseries offered a healthier, leaner option to enjoy the protein with the typical fries and salad accompaniments. The machines also inspired chefs to put their personal touches to seasonings, as juices and more are trapped in the meat as it cooks. “Each restaurant has it’s own unique variation of a marinade,” Morgado adds.
Carta Brava is now two years old, and another popular item on the menu is saltado (which translates to “jumping”), a stir-fry dish using the high heat of a wok, drawing from Peru’s Japanese culinary influences, which includes the use of soy sauce. The slightly charred meat, tomatoes, and onions are usually served over fries, which soak up all those smoky juices. Also, Carta Brava is the only Peruvian spot in the city that has a wok burner.
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