There are two signature Peruvian dishes consisting of boiled potatoes topped with a spicy, creamy, cheese sauce: Papas a la Huancaina and Ocopa Arequipeña. They both feature yellow chilies, cheese, and milk–and frequently, onions and garlic. An Ocopa sauce often contains nuts as a thickener, while a Huancaina sauce usually includes crackers (and an herb that is difficult to find: huacatay, sometimes referred to as black mint). However, I’ve seen Ocopa made with crackers, too…. Regardless, both sauces and their many variations are delicious!
The following recipe departs from the norm: it features an Ocopa-style sauce over chicken rather than potatoes, and it is broiled in the oven until the sauce begins to turn golden brown.
Peruvian-Style Peanut Chicken (Pollo Arequipeño)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
juice of 2 lemons or limes
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
2 scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp. aji amarillo (yellow chili) paste –add more if you like your sauce hot
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts
1/2 c. grated Münster cheese (or feta or queso fresco)
3/4-1 c. evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
Kalamata (or other black) olives
1. Trim the chicken breasts and cut each into two pieces.
2. Combine the lime juice and olive oil in a glass container and add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper to taste, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the red onion and scallion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and aji amarillo paste (and huacatay puree if available/desired) and cook for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Put the onion mixture into a blender along with remaining sauce ingredients; blend until smooth. If the sauce appears very thick, add a bit more milk. Place the sauce in a covered container and refrigerate until needed. Set the skillet to the side on the stove; do not clean or rinse.
4. After the chicken has marinated, heat the skillet over high heat and cook the chicken (in two batches if needed) until the pieces are golden brown on both sides (no need to add extra oil to the skillet first, since the marinade contains oil). Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a baking dish, top each piece with an ample amount of the peanut sauce, cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, sprinkle Kalamata olives around the chicken, and broil until sauce begins to turn golden brown in spots.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.