How do you love someone who loves someone who is hurting? Twice removed from the source of the pain, how do you help the helper?
You cook for them.
Over the vast history of man and the evolution of cultures, bringing food to those in need, emotional or physical, has been a source of comfort to the giver and the recipient.
On a purely practical side, people need to eat. Food gives us strength. The world is a darker place when one is hungry and emotions are more difficult to negotiate. It was not just a funny joke when someone coined the term “hangry”.
From a loving and loyal side, the bringing of food lets your loved one know that you’ve got their back. While they are dealing with the needs and care of their hurt loved one, you will care for them.
Twice this month I have stood on the sidelines and waited to hear good news or bad news.
So, I cook. My go-to is chicken. Peruvian Chicken. With its punch of spice and rich green cilantro sauce it can be eaten hot or cold, as a meal or straight out of the fridge at midnight when the need for food suddenly strikes you.
The spice mixture is forgiving of my distraction; a little more of that or a bit less, it’s okay.The act of marinating, cooking and delivering fills the long hours and makes me feel slightly less powerless. I can’t change or affect the circumstances but I can make them, perhaps, a little more bearable.
Spices, lime juice and olive oil are blended together into a watery paste.
Then I use my fingers to loosen the skin of the chicken and spread about ¾ of the spice mixture between the skin and the flesh. If you’re not comfortable handling raw poultry like that, you can use the handle of a wooden spoon. Just be careful not to poke holes in the skin. We want that wonderful flavor to penetrate down into the meat.
Rub the remainder of the spice paste all over the outside of the chicken and put it in the refrigerator to marinate, at least six hours but overnight is even better.
When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken on a rack above a foil lined baking sheet and put it in the oven. After 20 minutes turn the heat down to 350 degrees and continue cooking for an hour until the chicken is done. (165 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Let the chicken rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
While the chicken is cooking make the green sauce. Put all of the ingredients except the oil in a blender and run it until they are well chopped. While the motor is running slowly pour in the olive oil. It will thicken slightly. Put it in a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to eat.
Then pack it up and take it over to your friends or family.
And know that everything’s going to be all right.
PERUVIAN CHICKEN WITH GREEN CILANTRO SAUCE
For the spice paste
- Juice and zest from two large limes
- 4 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp salt
- 4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Whole chicken, about 4 lbs
For the Green Sauce
- 2 jalapeño chili peppers roughly chopped (see note)
- 1 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Juice and zest of one large lime
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Prepare a spice paste by placing all of the ingredients except the oil in a blender or small bowl of a food processor. Pulse three or four times until they are well mixed. With the motor running slowly pour in the olive oil.
- Using your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon, carefully loosen the skin of the chicken from the breast and legs. Spoon ¾ of the spice mix in between the skin and the meat, smoothing and spreading it by rubbing the skin gently. Try not to make any holes in the skin. Rub the remainder of the spice paste all over the outside of the chicken.
- Let the chicken marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Prepare the green sauce. Place all of the ingredients, except the oil in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor. If you like your sauce spicy hot include all of the seeds from the Jalapenos. The fewer seeds you include the less spicy it will be. Pulse it a few times until the herbs are chopped and everything is incorporated. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Remove the sauce to a bowl or container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.
- When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the chicken breast side up on a rack over a rimmed cooking tray. Place it in the center of the oven and cook for 20 minutes then turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue cooking until the chicken is done, about an hour or until it has reached a temperature of 165 degrees.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the green sauce on the side.