Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Peruvian Chicken Wings with Aji Verde

In yesterday's post, I was telling you about the Latin American Heritage Camp my family attended over the weekend.

One of the countries represented at camp is Peru, a land rich with history, heritage and cuisine. An amazingly diverse country, Peru includes the highlands of the Andes, the tropical rain forests of Amazon area, and the plains in the coastal region beside the Pacific Ocean.

Many know of Peru because of the beautiful and mystical Machu Picchu, a pre-Columbian Inca site. When we think of Peru, we might also think of alpacas and llamas, exquisitely detailed and colorful textiles and also food: potatoes, corn, chiles, beans, and quinoa. Although controversial, many believe Peru to be the birthplace of ceviche.

So no camp VIP party would be complete without at least one Peruvian appetizer. I adapted this recipe from one in the Food Network's Kitchen Cookbook. Aji Verde is a common very spicy sauce in the Peruvian kitchen. This complex-tasting sauce often is served with bread for dipping. In this case, it is used as a vibrant green dip for the chicken wings. Please note, the cotija cheese can be salty, so go easy on the salt until you taste.

Peruvian Chicken Wings with Aji Verde

for the chicken wings:
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
5 lbs chicken wings, cut into 3 segments (discard the wing tip or freeze to make chicken broth later)

Mix together all ingredients in a large plastic bag. If you have time, this is delicious when marinated several hours or overnight. However, it is not required.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover two large baking sheets with foil and spray foil with cooking spray. Place the chicken wings in a single layer on the sheets, leaving space in between wing pieces. Place the sheets on two separate oven racks and bake for 20 minutes. Flip the wings, switch the trays and bake another 20 - 30 minutes until wings are crispy and brown.

While the chicken wings roast, make the dipping sauce:

3/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled (usually I purchase this at a latin market or a local shop, The Cheese Importers)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup water
1-3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve alongside the chicken wings for dipping.

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